Don’t Give Up Hope
Not long ago, I became friends with a tractor trailer driver who had recently moved to the local area. Like me, he’d been in recovery for some time. However, soon after we met and started having coffee together, he told me he’d recently relapsed and just failed a DOT drug test. He said he was immediately removed from CMV (commercial motor vehicle) service and forbidden from operating a CMV on public roads until he successfully completed the “return-to-duty” process with a DOT-qualified Substance Abuse Professional (aka “SAP”).
Given I’d found my friend to be earnest in his desire to “get clean and stay clean,” when he called me with all sorts of questions and fears about his situation, I suggested we get together for coffee and talk about it.
Prior to our meeting up at Starbucks, I did some online research aimed at getting legitimate answers to the questions he’d raised.
On the night we met up, he started off by saying, “I’m afraid I’ll lose my CDL and my job because I failed that drug test.”
I told him, “There’s no way to determine whether or not you’ll lose your job, unless you talk directly with your boss, because in the U.S., that decision is up to your employer and your company’s policies. But if you want to return to commercial driving and either keep your job, if your company allows for that possibility, or get hired at another trucking company, you’re going to need to go through the return-to-duty procedure mandated by the DOT and have it supervised by a Substance Abuse Professional.”
He said, “Yeah, another driver I know told me my boss would be sending me a list of SAPs I could contact to get help.”
“Well, yeah, they’re required to do that. But if I were you, I’d be as proactive as possible and ask for that list. Then start making the calls and get a Substance Abuse Professional to evaluate you. The SAP will then assist and supervise you with treatment, education, follow-up testing and aftercare, which is what the return-to-duty process entails.”
My friend still seemed worried and asked, “Does a failed DOT drug test go on my record?”
I said, “I looked into that while I was doing some online research and yes, your employer is bound by law to provide records of your DOT drug testing history to new employers. But if you successfully complete a return-to-duty program with the supervision of a qualified Substance Abuse Professional, you can still get your commercial truck driving back on track.”
For the first time since we’d sat down, his face relaxed a bit and I could even detect a ray of hope in his eyes. He said, “I guess there’s reason to have some faith, then, and not give up, right?”
“Yeah, that’s certainly true… but you should know this: if you’re approved past the return-to-duty process, you’re going to have a minimum of six random and supervised drug tests in the first 12 months. And that follow-up testing may continue for up to five years, at the discretion of the Substance Abuse Professional. In other words, you’ve got an important decision to make. And in my eyes, it’s not just about getting your job back or finding new work with another trucking company.”
He asked, “Okay, so what are you referring to?”
I said, “It’s about how willing you are to do whatever it takes to get and stay clean. Because if you’re anything like me, developing and strengthening a foundation in recovery, on a daily basis, is essential to having any lasting success in life. And I mean in work, relationships, personal growth, everything depends on me deepening my sense of how I live recovery in my life. So, I’d say, given your recent relapse, jumping forward with everything you’ve got to strengthen your recovery, which in your case absolutely includes a return-to-duty program with a Substance Abuse Professional, ought to be the first thing on your agenda!”
The good news is, my friend quickly enrolled in a return-to-duty program, passed it, was allowed to keep working with his former employer, and is now back on the road, doing what he loves and staying clean, one day at a time, with a renewed and revitalized commitment to maintaining a strong recovery program in all areas of his life.
“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”
– Christopher Reeve