I got canned for being drunk

It's two years later, I've been to rehab, but what do I say in the job interview?

By Cary Tennis
Published May 7, 2009 10:32AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I see you've published many questions lately relating to alcoholism, so I hope this one is not redundant -- although I don't see a question quite like mine.

Two years ago I lost my job as a librarian because I showed up at work still drunk from my day off. I've never blamed anyone else for my drinking and have accepted that what happened to me is my own fault and no one else's.

For a time I wondered how much information to give potential employers about why I left that job. I decided that the only thing that made any sense at all was to be completely honest about it, as no doubt a new employer would find out anyway. Since then I've had a few interviews and I think I've run the gamut between giving too much information and too little. Where I've left it for now is simply citing a "medical issue which has since been treated and resolved" without going into much detail.

I realize the job market sucks for pretty much everyone these days and you never know who else has applied for a particular job, but now not only am I unable to get a position that perfectly matches my education and experience, I can't get one that I'm overqualified for, either.

The people who went through rehab with me, nearly all of whom were either doing meth or heroin and had all kinds of legal ramifications associated with using (I don't have so much as a DUI to show for it), all have either kept their jobs or managed to get new ones. I'm not the first person to have this problem and I won't be the last. Will I ever work again or am I just SOL?

Wino Librarian

Dear Wino Librarian,

Wouldn't it be great if you could just say, "Yeah, well, my last job, I got so incredibly plowed on my day off that, like, I was still incredibly wasted the next day, and when I came in I was still, like, gone, like wobbly! and slurring my speech and shit, and like falling down and shit, so, yeah, of course they canned my ass and I went to rehab and hey, wanna see my chip? Two years!"

And wouldn't it be great if the interviewer said, like, "Dude, I've been there! Awesome! You're hired!"

Oh, well. Not likely. Such a boring old world we live in.

Realistically, this is about how strangers view you, and what their impressions are. It's also about your particular industry culture. For instance, if you were applying for a job in the music industry, coming in still drunk from the day off might be seen as a legitimate hazard of the job. Whereas ... well, what's the library science culture like?

You need a feel for how most folks in your line of work view things. And it's also the whole "job interview" thing, in which people who may normally be fun-loving and crazy get to act very serious and straitlaced. So it's really a great question for readers to comment on. I think you will benefit from the consensus view.

I'll just say that to me, this "medical issue which has since been treated and resolved" does not exactly have the ring of absolute truth. It sounds more like something Union Carbide might say. And it raises questions: Are you saying you left voluntarily because of this medical issue that has since been treated and resolved? Or are you saying that they fired you because of this medical issue that has since been treated and resolved?

And if they fired you because of it, isn't that really unfair? Couldn't you sue or something?

You see what I mean? It raises questions.

So let's see what people in the audience have to say about this. We call now upon the great wisdom of the crowd! We welcome everyone's thoughts and ideas! I will monitor the discussion with great interest.

Wondering how much to tell about your past? See p. 93

Makes a great gift. Can be personalized for the giftee of your choice. Signed first editions on sale now.

What? You want more advice?


Cary Tennis

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