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Performing normality in working life among heavy substance users
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Public Health Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2933-0957
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Public Health Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2473-6330
Number of Authors: 22022 (English)In: Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, ISSN 1455-0725, E-ISSN 1458-6126, Vol. 39, no 5, p. 473-486Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Aim: Work is an important part of most people's everyday lives and well-being. Substance use by employees is associated with several negative consequences, such as absence from work and poor work performance. The study examines the strategies through which people who have problems with substance use produce a “normal” self and avoid becoming stigmatised in the workplace. Methods: The study uses data from in-depth unstructured life story interviews, which were conducted over phone with 13 people. The participants had developed various problematic heavy substance use habits. The interviews were analysed by applying interactional analysis and by using Goffman's concepts of “normality”, “embarrassment”, “face-work”, “stigma” and “performance”. Results: The analysis identified multiple strategies the participants used to produce normality and to avoid embarrassment and stigmatisation at work. These include skilful use of drugs in order not to show withdrawal symptoms, various ways of hiding their heavy substance use, frequent change of jobs, the maintenance of a clean and professional look, and attributing the absence from work to mental or physical illness. Moreover, the participants strategically avoided social contacts in which embarrassing situations could arise. When this was not possible, they manipulated their corporeal looks by hiding such kinds of bodily marks that would connote abnormality. Conclusion: The analysis points out that maintaining normality at work does not only refer to the efforts of trying to hide the effects of the drugs on behaviours and the body. It also reveals that the participants used substances to be able to perform energetically their work tasks, and in this way present themselves as normal workers. This ambivalence in performing normality makes the work life of people who use substances challenging. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2022. Vol. 39, no 5, p. 473-486
Keywords [en]
embarrassment, face-work, Goffman, heavy substance use, life stories, normality, performance, stigma, work
National Category
Substance Abuse Occupational Health and Environmental Health
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-207971DOI: 10.1177/14550725221108796ISI: 000822256000001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85133313602OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-207971DiVA, id: diva2:1688119
Available from: 2022-08-17 Created: 2022-08-17 Last updated: 2022-11-08Bibliographically approved

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Gunnarsson, MalinTörrönen, Jukka

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