updates: I’m a heroin addict and need time off to get clean, and more

Here are are five more updates from people who had their letters answered here last year.

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

I’ve been clean for two months. That’s all there is to say and I am so happy!!!

2. My boss and her daughter want to move in with me

On the advice of yourself and the wonderful AAM commenters, I decided to just live with the less-than-ideal roommate situation. Unfortunately, soon after I wrote you, my boss’s daughter had an episode – her illness causes periodical behavioural problems, namely aggressiveness and suicidal ideation – and as a result I had to put my foot down and insist that either they move or I be allowed to do so. I know none of it was intentional or their fault, but I couldn’t spend the remainder of my contract afraid to go home.

My manager completely understood and responded very promptly to my request. I stayed with a colleague in different housing for a weekend and both she and her daughter had moved out by the time I returned on the Monday, and I spent the remainder of my contract by myself in my original house. By this point the board of the arts organization we worked for had caught wind of the situation, however, and I understand that this incident was the last straw among a bundle of other workplace issues stemming from this illness for them. My manager’s contract was not renewed this year. So I’m sad to report that the whole thing had a rather bleak ending.

Thank you so much to all the wonderful people who chatted with me in the comments! It really helps to have someone else back you up on your situation, even if just to say that you’re right to have a qualm about the issue and offer some tips on how to approach situations like these. Especially working in not-for-profit arts (where there’s a strong culture of “just-make-it-work” and occasionally a real skewed view of what is acceptable), it’s so valuable to be able to reach out to people in other fields and get a sense for what is reasonable and what is not.

And don’t worry – I already have a couple other real braintwisters that I’m sending your way in the new year. Arts work is always riddled with workplace potholes and landmines.

Thanks again, and happy managing!

3. My former boss wants me to tell a reference that I was HIS manager

My former boss has a similar name to a good friend of mine, and a couple of days ago I saw a text that for some reason I thought was from my friend, about job hunting, so I responded immediately and in a way that is definitely more how you’d respond to a friend than a former boss. Nothing bad, just casual. When I saw the response I realized who it was from. I hadn’t actually responded to the previous text because I hadn’t known what to say.

Anyway, this time he followed that by telling me that if they called they’d ask the dates he worked there, his salary, his reason for leaving, and if he was rehirable. I wrote back letting him know that while I was again happy to be a reference, I do not know what his salary was, that I while I personally would say he was rehirable, I didn’t know why they would ask me that being that I was a receptionist. And he said he listed me as a “peer/colleague,” which…fine.

I just think this is weird since I don’t actually know three out of four of those things! I wasn’t there when he left so I don’t know how he would even want me to answer the last question.

I have never had a former boss/manager use me as a reference before, so I don’t know if that’s normal or just my experience.

4. Managing a struggling new manager (#4 at the link)

Many thanks to you and the commentators for your advice, which definitely changed the way I was handling the situation. I got more involved, which I hope was helpful in guiding Topaz and I’m sure at least made her feel more supported and confident. And I’ve learnt a few things from the whole process which may help on future, hopefully less dramatic, occasions.

Rose and Cassandra’s issues are being addressed — no magic wand, but nor are they being allowed to continue with no consequences.

5. Can I compare attending college to working a full-time job in my cover letter?

After reading my letter again, all I can say is “Ugh what was I thinking!?” Even re-reading it and knowing that I was the one who wrote, all I could do was cringe. Since writing the letter, I began to read more of Alison’s posts on how to write a decent cover letter. After some rough starts to it, I was finally able to come up with a cover letter that I felt really spoke to my abilities and experiences.

It took me a couple of months after that to find a job, due to moving to another state. I have been at my new job a couple of months now and I absolutely love it! The position is an entry-level one in my field and I am learning so much. I truly know now that work and school are two completely different experiences. Thank you everyone for your comments! And thank you so much Alison for choosing my letter! I believe your advice truly saved me from writing an embarrassing cover letter.

{ 68 comments… read them below }

  1. Amy in HR*

    OP#1 – congrats!!! I can’t imagine what you have been through but I am beyond happy for you. :-)

    1. Phyllis B*

      Good for you!!!!!!!!!! I have a daughter who was addicted to meth who will celebrate one year sober on Jan. 16. Come back and let us celebrate with you when you have your one year.

    2. Granite*

      OP#1 – I am so happy for you. For what it’s worth, don’t forget the wealth of anonymous internet support that is here for you. Please come visit the weekend open thread, and keep doing whatever you are doing.

  2. Sarianna*

    Hella awesome job, OP#1! We’re all cheering for you as you take each day as it comes. You got this.

  3. Teapot librarian*

    Echoing the congratulations to OP #1. I don’t even know you and am crying happy-proud tears.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, congratulations! That is huge and an amazing accomplishment!

    OP#2, I’m glad things resolved, but the overall situation sounds a bit disheartening (also, how was the festival run that your manager’s daughter was able to have such an impact on its success??).

    OP#3, your old manager remains So. Weird. But you sound like you’re handling it as well as can be expected, and it sounds like a good thing that at least he listed you as a “peer/colleague” instead of as his manager.

    OP#5, I’m glad you took Alison & the commentariat’s advice to heart and that you’re doing well at your new job! It’s hard to get tough feedback, but I’m glad it helped you shift your process. And you shouldn’t feel bad; there’s been at least 2 letters since yours with similar questions/facts, so your question and its ensuing discussion will probably help other new grads who are job hunting.

    1. Paige Turner*

      Seriously, this was the top update that I was hoping to read at some point and I am so glad that OP is doing well <3

      1. orchidsandtea*

        Me too! I have been thinking about her for months.

        Wishing you EVERY good thing in life, OP.

    2. Katniss*

      From one person in recovery to another, CONGRATS OP! So glad you’re doing well. You can do this!

    3. Venus Supreme*

      I am so fricken unbelievably proud, OP1. Congratulations. You deserve it. One day at a time <3

  5. Girasol*

    #5 Don’t feel too silly thinking that you could use college as experience. Surely most of us do at some point. When all your life’s experience is going to school, it’s hard to imagine otherwise. And schools don’t offer much help in bridging the gap from school life to work life. Good for you in shifting your mindset from school to business so quickly!

    1. OP #5*

      You are right about universities making it hard for one to shift from school life to work life. And honestly, I am much happier now that I am out of college because I don’t have to deal with homework or studying. Working has taught me so much already and I am excited to see where my career will go from here.

      1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

        I feel you. Work is hard for different reasons but I like it much much more than school for many many reasons.

    2. Angela*

      You are so right. I remember in an interview naming my proudest accomplishment was that I worked the *entire* time I was in college. (cringe)

      1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

        ??? I don’t see why this is cringeworthy at all. If you are a fresh grad that is a great accomplishment to name. If you’ve been working for 5 years and that’s still your go to a different story.

    3. Ashloo*

      I wouldn’t feel bad either. I was told point blank in UNDERGRAD that it counted as years of experience relative to job posting requirements. Maybe there’s a little give and take, but that’s obviously not good advice.

  6. Artemesia*

    #5 I am now old and retired and I can still remember things I did as a young professional that seemed like a good idea at the time and make me cringe all these years later. There was no internet and no AAM then — of course, there was also a little more forgiveness for being clueless before the internet too. It is easy to be caught up in your own personal story and drama and lose sight of the context; glad you had a chance to get feedback and congrats on the new job.

    1. Sophie Winston*

      I’m only 20 years in to my career, but I share Artemesia’s sentiments. I’ve actually found one of my favorite things about being a manger is being able to help our inexperienced staff navigate this stuff, give them the information I really could have used when I was in their position.

  7. Artemesia*

    #2. I am glad you got out of that house situation and sad for the boss who might have kept her job if she had used better judgment with how she inflicted her own serious personal situation on someone else.

  8. GlamNonProfitSquirrel*

    Ditto to all of the above and let me directly congratulate OP #5. I have a feeling that despite your (very, very tiny) stumble at the (very, very) beginning, you’ve already learned so much in your first role and the process of getting there. Thank YOU for writing back and validating what we all know – Alison is (very, very nearly always) right. Zippity doo dah!

    1. OP #5*

      At the time it felt like a very big stumble but one that I am glad to have happened. It showed me that sometimes what might seem like a good idea to you, is in fact a truly horrible idea to act on.

      P.s. I love your username. Squirrels are my favorite animal.

      1. Temperance*

        Honestly, you should be proud of yourself for thinking to ask the question before just doing it!

  9. Bomb Yogi*

    #1 – I am smiling and so happy for you. My dad died of a heroin addiction and sadly, my brother is on the same path. Im thankful you have chosen a better path. :)


      I’m sorry to read this. I really hope your brother wants to and finds the support he needs to get clean. My cousin was on heroin for a few years and has been clean for about a year or so. I really hope she can stay clean, as she’s missing out on her kids growing up. She’s back in their lives now, but not full-time and of course kids love their parents unconditionally and would much rather be with her than grandma, but she’s still not ready. It’s rough.

      1. sstabeler*

        congratulations to her on two counts- one for getting clean for a year, and for accepting that for now, the kids are better off with their grandmother. I wish her the best of luck getting back to a situation where she is ready for her kids to live with her full time.


    #1 – Congratulations! That is huge!! Curious though about what you ended up working out with your employer? Did you tell them and were they flexible with you/work with you? How’s the job going? Or did you have to leave the job in order to get healthy? I’m curious because I’m sure your experience could help others in navigating this same conversation with their employers. Overall though, way to go!!!

    1. vanBOOM*

      I had the same question, too. The way that she (I *think* the OP was a she?) described it made it seem like this would be an extremely difficult situation to maneuver, and reading about the difficulties that other people like her would face (especially the lack of support available) made me feel really sad.

  11. vanBOOM*

    Congratulations, OP #1!

    I was so worried about you–and when we didn’t hear from you for a while, I was hoping it was because you were in rehab. I hope everything is also OK with your job and finances, but regardless your health is most important. Your update has made my day! :)

    Keep going; you’re doing great!

  12. Collarbone High*

    I’m reading “I Capture the Castle” right now and so now I understand the names chosen for #4. I didn’t when I read the initial letter! :)

    And, congratulations, #1, that’s wonderful news.

  13. Picky*

    OP1–Congratulations! I am proud of you and admire what it took to get you to where you are now. Thank you for your sobriety.

  14. Leatherwings*

    #5 makes me smile, because I can really relate to cringing at something that seems obvious when I look back on it. And so happy OP landed a great new job! Here’s to learning!

  15. HardwoodFloors*

    #3 I don’t find it odd for a former boss to use a direct report as a reference. However, the job applicant needs to tell the truth about the relationship (can’t say reference was a boss when wasn’t). I have given references for former bosses when companies have closed operations and references are hard to come by: people moving, on different time zones, people not in same type of work anymore. One former boss I gave a reference to caused me to have a phone call with a jerk HR person (I know all HR people are not jerks) but I could tell this person wasn’t interested in hiring the former boss. And then a couple of days later I received a call about a job I was not suited for and I recommended my former boss and they were hired! Former boss has been there about eight years.

  16. Observer*

    #2 Just keep in mind that your experience may not be all that typical of non-profit work. Lets face it, the board didn’t fire your manager on a whim. Clearly, she was far out enough, that “just make it work” doesn’t cut it.

  17. SometimesALurker*

    Congrats, OP#1! I hope you are able to continue this amazing pattern, and I hope your boyfriend is able to follow your example! You deserve all the best.

  18. OP 1*

    Hey every one, it’s OP 1.
    LONG story short, I got fired. Smh.
    When I interviewed for the position, I was told that there is no universal start time for employees and hours are flexible as long as you work eight hours a day. One day when I was on my way to work around 9:45am, I received a voicemail telling me not to come in as I was being terminated for being a no call no show. How the hell is that before 10:00am?? (Really, over voicemail… didn’t even have the decency to wait til I got in). Mind you, I was coming to work between 9:30am and 10am for the last several weeks and was never told that it was prohibited or my arrival time was an issue. Nor did I ever miss a day since I used up my PTO (remember in my initial ASK A MANAGER post, I used up my PTO very early on in the year). What good employee is fired without warnings for some shit like that?? Never have I had any reprimands for my arrival/departure time, my conduct, or anything else that would warrant an employer to fire me so suddenly. When I applied for unemployment, I was denied and my former employer told UC that hours were flexible between 7am and 5pm and I had received warnings my attendance which is a blatant lie. Though when I was taking the bus there at 6 in the morning every damn day and arriving at 6:30am, hours were flexible then. And never did my manager ever tell me I couldn’t stay after 5pm. He would literally wave goodbye to me at 5:30pm when he was leaving so I didn’t know it was an issue to stay after 5pm. in addition, the majority of employees left after 5:00pm!!!
    My personal issues may have been more obvious then I realized and I’m seeing that now.

    1. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      First of all, CONGRATULATIONS on your sobriety!!! That is a huge accomplishment, and I sincerely hope you are proud of yourself…keep up the good work! I’m sorry about the job. I wish you luck finding another, keep your head held high and if you come into a situation about the hours like that again, get it in writing somehow. Many blessings to you! :-)

    2. Bye Academia*

      I’m sorry you were terminated so suddenly for what appears to be a miscommunication, and with no warning. That has to suck. Maybe you’re right that your personal issues were more obvious than you realized, or maybe that workplace just didn’t communicate expectations/performance issues well. At any rate, I’m so glad you used your time off to get clean and that you have managed to stay clean for two months so far. Congratulations!

    3. Brogrammer*

      Sucks that you got fired. Your personal issues may have been more obvious than you realized, but it does sound like management at your old job had some serious communication problems as well. Congrats on your sobriety, it’s a hard thing to do but you did it.

      1. Belle*

        +1. Appeal with info of no policy or set expectations. Also note that no warnings were received. Unemployment should then ask the company for documentation of the warnings, which they won’t be able to provide in this case.

    4. Anon111*

      Your former employer is required to have documentation of those warnings. Since they never happened, I doubt that is the case, and you should be eligible for unemployment. Definitely appeal and make it clear that you never received a warning. Good luck!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      So you are sober in spite of life giving you a kick in the teeth while in treatment? You won, OP. I hope you see this, you won. It what we do when the chips are down that sets our quality of life in the future. You could have quit treatment and you chose not to, big win.

      When you get your next job have them put the hours in writing. Putting it in writing nails it down for all to see.
      I am thinking that your next job will lead you to good people who in their own way will support and encourage your endeavors. Meanwhile, hang out here. Add me to the list of people who are over the moon happy for your good news and wish you many continuing successes everywhere in life.

  19. Temperance*

    LW2: that sounds really difficult, but I’m so glad that you got through it. IIRC, didn’t you end up living with just the daughter in the end?

    I hope your next summer festival experience is much more relaxed.

    1. Jean*

      Oh dear, I just saw your update in n the comments and now I feel silly. That is less awesome. But you’re still in a better place than you were before, and you can find another job and start fresh. Hang in there, you got this.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Nah, it’s still pretty awesome!

        But continuing on the less-awesome train: pretty much everything I know about addiction, I have learned from watching Intervention, so take with as many grains of salt as needed, but: apparently relapse is super common and doesn’t need to be the end of your story. So stay gentle with yourself if you do go backward at some point. Now you know how to quit, right?

  20. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

    #5 Don’t beat yourself up OP. Also did you ever look into internship if you are still looking for a full time job?

    I posted about that on the original letter you sent in but it was pretty far down the chain. I remember being really annoyed in my 3rd year out of college (sort of) and being denied for entry level work at one company but told I was not able to qualify for internships since I had just passed the 2 years out of college mark. There are a lot of internships out there designed for recent graduates that aren’t summer internships and offer valuable experience.

    1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

      Never mind I see you got a job! I read too quickly. That’s awesome woot wooot!!!!

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