What to Do If Your Business Partner is Abusing Substances

substance abuse

Having a business partner can be the difference between success and failure. An effective business partner brings something to the table. Maybe your partner shared in the cost and risk of starting up a business venture. Maybe your partner has the connections or communication skills that have helped make your business more successful. Some partners are just the type to hold a mirror up to you or your business and help you see something you might not have otherwise seen–and thereby making all of the difference. Whatever made you partners in business in the first place, if substance abuse becomes part of the picture, you have an entirely different situation.

Substance abuse can lead to alterations in personality, neglecting work or appointments, lying and sometimes even stealing from the business, all in service to the addiction. Addiction is “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors” (American Society of Addiction Medicine definition).

That means that when someone you know abuses substances, it’s inevitable that the consequences will show up at work at some point, even if your business partner seems to also be trying to keep it together. So what do you do?

Putting the Brakes on Substance Abuse

The good news for your business partner is that you care enough to try to help. Not everyone with substance abuse disorders has anyone in their corner, trying to help them beat it. Chances are, you care more deeply than just any workplace consequences: you want to see your business partner happy and successful in life, not just in business.

So here are some steps you can take:

  1. Don’t panic – While it’s tempting to have a knee-jerk response (Call the authorities! Fire your partner! Threaten them! Cry and scream!), it’s important to understand addiction. Educate yourself about the disease, such as understanding the definition given above. Do a little research and realize that millions of Americans struggle with the abuse of legal or illegal substances.
  2. Don’t enable – As part of your self-education, learn about enabling. Unfortunately, substance abuse problems persist when those around you shelter you from the consequences of your own decisions. If your partner is abusing substances, the chances are high that he or she has multiple enablers in their life.
  3. Don’t stay silent – It’s normal to try to avoid the topic, hoping the issue will resolve. It may seem too personal to bring up at work, or you might not even have solid evidence (only a suspicion) that your partner is abusing substances. Regardless, speak up. Be direct.
  4. Do enlist support – Depending on how long you’ve known each other and how close you are, it may be that you also speak to your business partner’s spouse or loved one. Working together, you can get your partner help.
  5. Do get help – Few people beat substance abuse on their own, but addiction is treatable. In fact, it has similar relapse rates to other chronic diseases, such as hypertension, asthma, and type II diabetes. Just as the diabetic might need to make dietary changes and the asthmatic might have to avoid certain triggers, addiction does require lifelong management. Getting your partner started on the road to recovery can make all of the difference.

Moving Forward or Moving On

What is a business partner if not another individual equally invested in success? You trust one another’s competence and potential for success. So help your partner get going, even if it means moving on.

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