Finding the right contractor is practically an art form. You have to find someone who’s committed to getting the job done correctly, to your preferences, and on time. Although you’ll want to keep an eye out for any major warning signs during the hiring process, there’s one positive quality to look for that may be somewhat unexpected: recovering addicts often make fantastic contractors.
This article will be your guide to successfully hiring and working with a recovering addict to meet all your home contracting needs. It will list the benefits of hiring one as well as tips to building an effective working relationship, from the initial meeting to the final day of work. Don’t let the stigma of addiction stand in the way of hiring a qualified candidate — as this guide will illustrate, the perks will often outweigh the risks!
Benefits of Working with Someone in Recovery
To start, it’s important to eliminate misconceptions about addiction in general. Drug or alcohol abuse is often misunderstood as a choice or lack of willpower, but in fact, addiction is a disease that can actually alter the way the brain works. Overcoming this kind of condition requires strength, courage, and a great amount of willpower. This means that a contractor with a history of addiction may actually be uniquely qualified to meet any challenge you give him and will have the tenacity to ensure the job is done right.
It’s also significant to note the term “recovering addict” versus a “former addict” or “cured addict.” What many don’t realize is that addiction is not a disease that can be cured. It is a chronic condition that those afflicted must battle every day.
Even those with a past drug- or alcohol-related criminal history shouldn’t be immediately dismissed from consideration for their record alone. Research has actually shown that they can be excellent work candidates: they tend to be more productive, and those who have been out at least seven years are no more likely to commit a crime than anyone else. Largely for this reason, there have been multiple efforts across the country to make it easier for non-violent felons to find work. An estimated 70 million Americans have an arrest history that can show up in a background check, regardless of whether or not they were convicted. This can make it unjustly more difficult to find a job — often a hit on a background check is all it takes for someone to lose the chance at a position he may have been completely qualified for.
There are numerous benefits to hiring someone in addiction recovery. Recovering addicts often have a heightened sense of motivation and commitment — and as anyone who has ever done remodeling can tell you, those are vital qualities in a contractor! Because it can be so difficult to find good work, they also tend to be especially loyal; there’s a sense of responsibility to pay back their employers for the chance to get their lives back on track and achieve financial and personal stability. Most will work that much harder to meet and even exceed expectations as gratitude for the opportunity.
Few things are as frustrating as returning home after a long day of work and seeing zero progress on your remodeling project. Contractors tend to have a reputation for dragging their feet, and if you have one who likes to party, it can be even worse. Most in addiction recovery are on an abstinence-based program, and thus are significantly less likely to go out on weeknights or weekends and show up to work hungover and unprepared for hard labor. This can even lead to fewer sick days taken, and increased productivity and focus while working.
Twelve-step programs common to most in recovery emphasize principles of honesty, humility, and integrity. This is to be applied in all aspects of his life, including his professional life. Someone truly committed to recovery will hold himself accountable, meaning he’s more likely to own up to mistakes and be honest about the project overall — if you approach him about falling behind schedule, for example, it would be hypocritical and an affront to his recovery to lie.
Addiction treatment programs also stress the importance of self-care; a strong support system is important, but ultimately, those in recovery must be able to take care of themselves and find the strength to independently solve problems as they come. This can translate into his professional life by giving him better confidence and capability of making judgment calls as needed. Ultimately, you want a contractor who can distinguish between the times he should consult you for guidance and those in which he should act based upon his professional expertise.
Finally, some believe that recovering addicts have a positive effect on their peers and the workplace in general. Larry Keast, founder of America In Recovery, first noticed the perks of hiring those in recovery at Venturetech, his oilfield equipment manufacturing company. He found that after hiring recovering addicts, all employees — regardless of addiction history — ended up getting along better and taking a deeper interest in each other. It ended up being a boost in overall morale and providing a happier workplace environment.
Creating an Effective Working Relationship with Your Contractor
When hiring a contractor — whether he has a history of addiction or not — it’s important to do your homework before making any commitments. Ensure his list of references checks out, and don’t forget to look at his online reviews as well. (Verify that his past clients are also aware of his addiction history so that you don’t accidentally “out” him to a former client if you inquire how it affected his work.) You can also check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website to find out whether he is BBB accredited, meaning he exhibits a good-faith effort to resolve customer complaints. You may even want to stop by a current job site to speak to the homeowner directly about her experience. For instance, do he and his crew always show up on time and ready to work? Is he responsive to phone calls? Has his past addiction history ever been a problem on the job?
You’ll also want to verify that he has all the proper licensing needed to complete your project, and if he’s only recently returned from treatment, whether or not he needs any renewals. He should have worker’s compensation insurance for anyone who will be on-site, which can be verified by seeing a copy of the contractor’s certificate of insurance or getting the name of the carrier and verifying through the company. It’s also a good idea to require that he has general liability insurance to protect against damage to your property. Again, this is good advice when it comes to hiring any contractor, but if you’re wary about his addiction past, it can add peace of mind that you’ll be completely covered should the unexpected occur.
When you’ve found the right person for the job, talk to him about the role his recovery will play throughout the process. Though you certainly want to respect his privacy, you also want to ensure that his work doesn’t interfere with his recovery or vice versa. Ask if he’ll need time to attend meetings or treatment, and work out a schedule that makes both of you comfortable. If he needs to attend during work hours, how long will he be gone and how many times per week? How will he make up the hours? Let him know that should the schedule need to change, he should have no hesitation in speaking to you about it; it’s a positive if he can acknowledge the need for more support. Together, you can work out a solution if the need arises. Put the agreement in writing, signed and dated, and make sure each of you has a copy.
Decide on how you’ll communicate: you may want to have weekly meetings at a set day and time to discuss the project’s progress, any concerns or changes that need to be made, as well as any conflicts he may be experiencing with work and his sobriety. For less pressing information, it might be helpful to have a job-site notebook for communication purposes, especially if you usually leave in the morning before the crew arrives and return home after they’ve left for the day. This will give you the chance to ask questions and communicate concerns as needed without having to constantly arrange additional meetings. The notebook can also serve as a legal document if communications need to be reviewed later or referenced for accountability on both ends.
Keep in mind that you should make yourself more available in the beginning stages of the project. Most contractors will have questions and concerns during the first few days of work, so make an effort to respond as quickly and consistently as possible so he doesn’t become immediately frustrated with the job or your lack of input. If you display a lack of concern, it’s likely that he may develop the same attitude, and both your project and working relationship will suffer the consequences.
It’s perfectly normal to occasionally butt heads with your contractor. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when working with a recovering addict. Some individuals in recovery tend to be perfectionists in the areas of their life that they can control. In many ways, this will be an excellent quality in a contractor. However, it could also create a self-inflicted pressure to create a perfect image of himself, which could get in the way of him coming to you with a problem, be it struggling to meet a deadline, issues with a certain aspect of the job, or even with work affecting his sobriety. Let him know up front that it’s better to come to you immediately with problems. It’s better to catch an issue early and fix it than learn about it later on after it’s already spun out of control.
Addicts also sometimes have trouble with conflict in general, as it can be difficult for them to find the proper balance between overkill and remaining silent. He may be overly passive, bottling up his emotions in an effort to keep the peace (especially with his boss). On the other hand, he could become overly contentious when confronted.
The key is keeping the lines of communication open and finding the right way to approach him. If you notice there seems to be a problem, it may be up to you to initiate a conversation about it. Avoid having this kind of talk when either of you is too worked up or angry. Display a willingness to listen and understand, and avoid accusatory statements. Ask open-ended questions and hear him out even if you immediately disagree. If you can both manage to keep the conversation calm and honest, you’ll likely be able to find a solution to your problems. Your working relationship will likely even benefit from an initial disagreement — it can pave the way to better communication and understanding and prevent future issues.
Contractors need to be hard workers in order to be successful, and that’s a big part of why recovering addicts often make superior ones. Those in recovery know that great things take strength, commitment, and determination — all of which are vital to accomplishing a contracting job. As long as you keep the lines of communication clear and an open mind, you might find that giving a recovering addict a chance was the best decision possible for your home project.