13 Aug Advice for Executives and Professionals Struggling with Substance Abuse
Sometimes, it’s possible to hide an addiction—at least in the short term—behind a successful career. These addicts are masters of denial because they feel in control, even if it’s illusory. People can struggle with addiction for years before the facade shows cracks. Sometimes, a life-changing event, like a DUI or overdose drives the addiction into sharp, unvarnished relief.
A National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study concluded that 20 percent of alcoholics are well-educated and high functioning. Studies suggest that approximately 10 percent of top executives struggle with addiction.
Addiction doesn’t care about your position at work or your socioeconomic status. The challenges executives and high-end professionals face include getting the treatment they need without losing their positions or negatively impacting their careers.
It’s time to seek help
Addiction turns brains into a hostages. If your staff constantly covers for you, like one sales executive who says, “I had a whole army of people who would mop up my messes,” you deny that anything’s wrong, or you feel like you’re losing control, there’s a problem.
While it’s possible for people to break free without professional help, it’s difficult, frustrating and potentially life-threatening. Regardless of its severity or hold, knowing it’s time to seek help and taking action is the first step to breaking its hold, especially if you’re experiencing any of the following:
- You’ve recognized that you’re struggling and want to quit, but can’t.
- You’re abdicating responsibility to your coworkers and subordinates.
- You’ve lost interest in your work and/or significant relationships.
- You’re hiding your addiction from people and/or trying to live a double life.
Do you like to take risks or seek intense stimulation? That’s a common theme among driven professionals, but can be a double-edged sword: the same stimulation that drives entrepreneurial endeavors and a competitive attitude can also facilitate addictive behaviors.
That need to seek novel experiences and take risks can be indicative of a genetic variant that leads to suppressed dopamine signalling. All the physiological traits exhibited by successful high-powered, C-level executives can also increase the possibility of substance abuse.
Get help without negatively impacting your career
The most effective way to recover from addiction is to seek treatment. It isn’t enough to detox—you have to address the behaviors that led to and perpetuated the addiction. The psychological element to addiction is hard to address and treat on your own.
But how can you treat your addiction without losing your position or negatively impacting your career trajectory? Fortunately, more companies have partnered with companies that provide employee assistance programs (EAP) to address behavioral health, wellness and other issues.
Also, many career experts say that employers are more likely to support you during your treatment if you acknowledge that you need help (rather than having an event like a DUI identify a problem).
Recovery centers geared toward professionals
If you’re ready to take that step but you aren’t sure where to start, there are many services available who can assist you. Many treatment centers and support groups exist that cater to different professions and specialities, including privately run groups and organizations that facilitate anonymity. Some provide some level of access to business communication tools and job-specific therapies that treat the addiction and provide healthy tools for managing high-stress work environments and the lifestyles that influence substance abuse.
In addition to rehab and addiction therapy, there are many supplemental treatment options that can help. Float therapy, which Time explains is effective against anxiety disorders (including PTSD), is available throughout the country and works to relax the mind and body. By using this and other mindfulness practices to remain aware of yourself and your needs, you are in a stronger position to avoid stress that could lead you back toward drugs or alcohol.
Seeking addiction treatment is the best way to regain control of your career, your life and your reputation. It’s not a journey you must travel alone; there’s no shame in admitting you need help and support.
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