I had to fire someone the other day, and I never want to have to do it again.

It has bothered me emotionally for two days now, and even though it was necessary, and brought on by the young man who was told to go home and not come back, that still doesn’t make me feel any better.

Let’s call the young man Eric. Eric showed up to work on Wednesday in a “state”. How can I best describe this state?

Eric was forgetful, and by forgetful, I mean, one minute I would tell him to do something, and within five minutes, I would find him wandering around the job site, doing nothing. When I asked him about why he wasn’t doing what I told him to, he would tell me I never told him to do anything. This happened twice.

The second time, I asked him if he was okay. The change in personality from Eric of the day before, to Eric of Wednesday was unbelievable, to say the least. This day was the second day I had seen this kind of change in Eric in three weeks. In my asking Eric if he was okay, I shot straight for the heart, and asked him what he was on, as in, what drug was he high on?

He denied it strongly, and without me asking, he even offered to take, in his words, a “piss test”. I asked him if he would be willing to take a blood test instead, because I know of at least one popular drug (ecstasy) that doesn’t show up in “piss tests”. He hesitated before he answered, and unless I had demanded an answer, he would have ignored the question. He said he would be willing to, as soon as he could get to the hospital to do it. I told him the nursing home had nurses right here who could administer the test right now. He didn’t seem too keen on the idea.

Eric is a former convict, and he is working while on probation. He was convicted of felony gun possession, and illegal possession of narcotics with intent to sell. That is his history, and I thought the Eric who had been working with me for about a month had turned the corner, and moved on from that hopeless life. He is a believer, at least he claims to be, and I do not doubt it. But something in him changed overnight, from Tuesday to Wednesday.

I believe he was high, and I said so. He denied it, so I tried to believe him, but as the day wore on, it was obvious he was under the influence of “something”. Eric is normally quiet and a little shy, unsure of himself in nearly every respect, to the point that he often asks me if I think he is doing a good job. I truly believe he longs for, and should receive copious amounts of positive reinforcement. I tried to give that to him as much as I could.

Eric speaks slowly normally, he is easily understood, and he has sharp eyes that bore into you. On Wednesday, Eric was very bold, even loud and sort of a braggart. His personality was very different from Tuesday to Wednesday. His speech was slurred, yet I couldn’t smell alcohol on his breath. His eyes were unfocused, and his eyebrows seemed like they were permanently raised well above his eyes. He was talking “smack”, ghetto speak, and he wanted everyone to hear him who would listen. Like I said, completely unlike the Eric I know.

During our break time, I had a chance to observe Eric a little more closely. I observed a young man who was swaying back and forth, unsteady on his feet, and a young man who had trouble speaking coherently. His positives ended up as negatives in his speech process, such as “you want a truck that’s got damage, Tom, so you know you’re getting a good deal.” What I believe he meant to say was, “You want a truck that doesn’t have any damage”. There were at least three more instances of these mixed up positives/negatives, and my mind began to turn quickly.

I had to send him home, and I had to do it right away after break. So I pulled him into a shop area, and told him what I had decided. I was willing to let him come back at that point, even though I knew he was lying to me about not being high. What happened next cemented his fate. He became angry, to the point of violence almost, and I believe he would have attacked me had it not been for the fact that another fellow walked in as he was heating up. His personality went from bold to almost evil in an instant, and this young man in front of me who seldom cussed was using words I thought he didn’t even know, and using them loudly. He cursed me, and then asked me a strange question. He asked me to look into his eyes, and tell me what I saw.

I tried to see a person, I honestly did. But the Eric I knew wasn’t in his eyes. Someone else was there, a someone else who while he was in prison, was constantly in fights and in trouble. I became prepared to defend myself, as I answered his question. “I see drugs, Eric, that’s what I see”. And the moment before I said that, I felt like it wasn’t even me talking, and my heart inside was breaking.

We escorted Eric out of the shop, and outside, off the jobsite. We called the temp agency, and told them Eric wouldn’t be coming back.

Eric needs help, and the last two days, I have been wondering what I could have done differently to help him. I have been wondering if I did the right thing. This was the second time he had shown up to work like this, and the first time he did, I questioned him then, too. He denied it then, but shortly into that day, he went home, claiming he was so tired he almost felt as if he could fall sleep while working. I let him go that day. I couldn’t let him come back this time, not doing the job we do, where at times, even men with their full mental capacities can be in danger from tools, falling objects, and handling heavy, awkward materials. I had to think of the other guys, and so I made my decision to not let Eric return.

Tonight, all I can think of is to ask you all to pray for Eric. That’s not his real name, but God knows who you are praying for anyway. I have prayed numerous times during these last two days, and have been asking God also about what else I could have done differently. I tried to just send him home, and let him come back when he was better, but he wasn’t willing to do so in peace, or in any other way.

Eric is a good kid, I know he is. He just gets into trouble sometimes. I want so much for everything to be better for him, and I don’t know how to do it. And now, I can’t even see him at work, because I feel he is a danger to everyone around him, if he ever came back as he did twice already, high on drugs. Lord, what should I do?

I never thought I would have to do this to anyone, and now that I have, I never want to do it again. My heart is bleeding for Eric, and it is bleeding for the decision I feel I was forced to make. Am I supposed to thank God for that? Because the truth is, I don’t feel like thanking Him over this. I can thank Him for a lot, but for this, I am not there yet, and I wonder if I ever will be.

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