Executives and Addiction

My Secret Life as an Executive: Successful and Addicted

Strength doesn't come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn't. – Anonymous

When you're an executive, you think you have it all together, and that's true even when you're an addicted executive. Of course, when you're constantly thinking about when you're going to get your next high, or when you're going to be able to settle down with your bottle of whiskey or wine at the end of the night, you're anything but "all together."

You're falling apart.

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The Beginning of My Addiction as a Professional

I can remember when it all started. I had started my own company, and I was feeling as though I was on top of the world. Before that, I struggled for years trying to make something of myself, and to find a way to make myself successful. I landed my first big client and it was a high unlike any that I had ever experienced, even to this day. I celebrated by buying a round of drinks for everyone in the office. We were all excited, and eager to see where the future would take us.

It wasn't long before I started to view alcohol as away to celebrate my achievements. Even the smallest ones required some type of alcoholic drink as a way to congratulate myself and those on my staff, for a job well done. Of course, as time went on, there were also some downfalls, and I found that alcohol offered me a welcome escape from my problems too. Those who have addictions say that alcoholism starts with abuse and then before you know it, you don't know how to function without it.

They're right.

Of course, it wasn't long before alcohol had taken over my life, but it also didn't take much time before it was no longer enough for me. At some point, all of the stress I was facing at the office led me to go to the doctor and get a prescription for opiates to treat my chronic back pain that they say was probably being caused my stress. Oxycontin, was what they gave me. I had never taken such strong prescription medications before, and it pleased me to see that they helped. Finally, I was able to function like a normal person at the office, and the feeling I got when I drank after taking them didn't hurt either.

I didn't realize you could become addicted to prescription medications like that. Even though the warning was right there on the bottle, when you work in such a high-powered position like I did, you start to think that nothing can touch you. Those warnings are there for other people, and they're certainly not anything that I needed to worry about.

Of course, I was wrong.

I got pretty frustrated when I took an Oxy one night and it did absolutely nothing for my back pain. I could hardly lie in bed without feeling that twinge in my back, so I doubled my dosage. I told myself I would do it just that one time because I needed to get some sleep. Little did I know, my body was building up a tolerance to the drug, and that one time would turn into every time.

Can you imagine how I felt when my doctor refused to prescribe me any more Oxycontin? He told me that he was afraid I'd become addicted to them, so he gave me something milder and referred me for physical therapy.

That was the last time I saw that doctor.

Doctor shopping became the norm for me for a while. Then I learned how to buy Oxy on the street, and when that wasn't enough for me, heroin seemed to be a decent alternative. After all, I could afford it.

Why are so Many Executives Also Addicts?

Understanding Professionals Who are Functioning Addicts/Alcoholics

Many professionals are functioning addicts or alcoholics.

They typically assume that no one knows about their addictions, and they’re often right. These are individuals who seem to be able to manage their lives in spite of their substance abuse. They will often work overtime, and are frequently thought to be workaholics. They tend to be very successful in their careers.

As far as their social lives go, functioning addicts and alcoholics are extremely social. They have a lot of friends and enjoy spending time with them. It’s not hard for them to keep their substance abuse quiet. For these individuals, they’ve mastered the art of covering their tracks.

Business Executives and Professionals with Addictions: Facts and Statistics

Business executives, CEOs and professionals with addictions are actually quite common, although they are also very good at keeping their substance abuse problems a secret. There are a lot of reasons why executives have such a difficult time not turning to drugs and alcohol as a way to soothe their worries, and as a way to escape from the stress of their jobs.

There are so many high-powered professionals in the United States who are struggling right now. So many of them just don’t know of any other way to cope with their stress and challenges.

Perhaps that's how you feel as well. Whether you're just starting out in business or you've been an executive for a number of years, you are undoubtedly familiar with how the stress of the job and the challenge of balancing your family and personal life can weigh on you after a while. At first, using substances seemed like a valid way for you to manage everything you're going through. However, now it feels as though everything is spiraling out of your control. This is how so many business executives feel, and what's worse is that they assume that there is no way out for them that will work.

Fortunately, that's not true at all. You can opt to get help for your addiction, and there is drug and alcohol treatment for executives and professionals that can assist you with that.

Addiction Statistics for Executives in the United States

It's not surprising that sometimes executives and others who work in high-powered positions often feel as though they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. These individuals often work from early in the morning until late at night, and sometimes they even work through the night.

The issues they encounter on a daily basis would be enough to cause most people to quit their jobs, and yet, they persevere.

For many executives, the only way they know how to keep going is to opt to use substances as their fuel. The statistics regarding substance abuse among professionals, CEOs and executives are astonishing.

They state that:


9% of those in management positions have a problem with heavy alcohol use. This works out to be about 427,000 executives, professionals and CEOs who have alcoholism.


1% of those in management positions have used illicit drugs at some point within the last month. This works out to about 521,000 CEOs, managers and executives with drug addictions.


Only 11.4% of those in management who have substance abuse problems have been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder.


The number of those struggling with alcoholism in management positions has gone up .5% from 2007 to 2012.


The number of those in management positions who have used illegal drugs during the last month has gone up almost 2%.


Less people in management positions with substance abuse disorders are getting treatment for addiction now than ever before.

These statistics are incredible, and they just go to show the fact that the addiction problem among executives is probably much more severe than most people think. The question is, why are professionals and CEOs at such a high risk for addiction? There are a few different reasons why their risk is so high.

Addicted Business Professionals: Understanding the Stress of the Job

Few people are able to understand the constant stress and pressure that high-powered executives face on a daily basis. For the most part, drug and alcohol abuse begins as a way to cope with the issues that executives face every single day while they're at work.

Just a few of these issues might include:

  • Negotiating multi-million dollar contracts with other businesses and individuals on a regular basis.
  • Making decisions that could mean the rise or fall of the company.
  • Making plans to ensure that the financial future of the company is secure.
  • Facing economic challenges that threaten to be the company's undoing.
  • Sacrificing family time to ensure that work goals are met, or exceeded.
  • Struggling to manage a team of associates that all need consistent instruction and supervision.

Most executives that work in these types of positions spend most of their lives trying to reach that type of success. The problem is that they often find that working so hard and so often throws them completely out of balance. Ideally, humans are supposed to get eight hours of sleep, spend eight hours at work and enjoy eight hours of rest and relaxation time. When that work-life balance is thrown off, it causes a great deal of problems for the individual.

At that point, regardless of how much an executive enjoys closing deals, expanding his or her business, or making money on Wall Street, something is bound to give. Quite often, people in these positions will turn to drugs and alcohol because they simply don't know if any other way to cope with their problems.

Another issue that frequently plagues executives, and also goes along with the work-life balance issue is the problem of time with family. Animosity can quickly arise when spouses are not at home to spend time with their husbands or wives. Many executives have to spend anniversaries, birthdays or even weekends stuck in the office, unable to take off for even a few hours to spend time with their families. Fathers and mothers frequently have to miss out on special events like class plays and little league games because they have to work and can't afford to miss any of that work time. Also, they tend to travel a lot, which can mean that they spend several weeks, or even months during the year out of town or out of the country.

Not only does that time away often cause a problem, but it also creates many different opportunities to use drugs or alcohol without any backlash from disapproving family members.

Lack of sleep is often another issue that can lead to substance abuse problems. Professionals may feel as though they need to stay up well into the night in order to complete an important project for a high-profile client, or they may simply lose sleep because their minds are so full with the goings on of the day. It's not uncommon for CEOs, executives and professionals to regularly take sleeping pills, which can become addictive.

Those who have a hard time waking up in the morning or staying up late to complete projects will often turn to amphetamines like Adderall, Ritalin or Strattera as a way to help themselves wake up and stay awake for many hours. These drugs are usually prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but college students will regularly use them to stay awake to study for exams. It's not unheard of for executives to use them for the same reason, and they can be purchased illegally on the street.

Finally mental illnesses among high-powered executives are actually quite common. The stresses that they face on a daily basis can easily result in bouts of anxiety and panic attacks, and there are many CEOs with manic depression. So many executives need to talk with a counselor about their psychological symptoms, but that can take a great deal of time. For them to carve more than an hour out of their days to go to a therapist once a week is something they feel they can't do. It would take too much time. As a result, they will often tend to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

These are just some of the reasons why so many executives turn to substances as a way to deal with the issues they face while they're on the job. There are many more, and every individual is different. Some can handle a great deal of stress on their own, while there are others who look for solace through substances at the slightest hint of depression, stress, or work-related problems.

Are You an Addicted Executive

Are You an Executive Who Is Addicted to Drugs and Alcohol? How You Can Tell

Perhaps you're an executive, and you can't help but wonder if your substance abuse has gotten out of hand. You may know that you shouldn't be drinking quite so much alcohol, and you certainly shouldn't be taking drugs or using illegal drugs as often as you do. Still, for the most part, you feel as though you're in complete control of your substance use.

This is how many professionals feel. You're used to being in complete control of everything in your professional life, and so of course, you're going to feel in control of your drug or alcohol use. The fact is that it is much more likely that your substance abuse is controlling you, regardless of how you feel.

It might help you to take a quiz that can help you understand what your relationship with substances is. You'll be able to tell what level your drug or alcohol abuse is at right now, and what you should do as far as getting treatment. It may also help you to look at a list of addiction symptoms that you can use to study yourself more closely to understand your level of addiction or abuse.

Some of the physical symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction include:

  • When you haven't been able to use in a while, you go through withdrawal symptoms.
  • You've experienced an increase or a decrease in your appetite.
  • You have problems with sleeping at night.
  • You need to use higher amounts of drugs and alcohol than you once did in order to get high or drunk.
  • You frequently experience stomach problems, such as vomiting, diarrhea or stomach aches.
  • Chronic headachesare something you experience almost every day.

There are other behavioral symptoms of addiction that you might notice as well, and some of these may include:

  • You find that once you start using substances, you're not able to stop.
  • You realize you've developed a health problem that's related to the drugs or alcohol you're using, and you still refuse to stop.
  • You've given up social events or hobbies that you once loved because using is now much more important to you.
  • You always make sure you have a good supply of drugs or alcohol on hand.
  • You've taken risks to obtain drugs or alcohol.
  • You've engaged in risky activity while you were under the influence, such as driving or having unprotected sex with someone you don't know.
  • You feel as though you're obsessed with using substances almost all the time.
  • You keep your substance abuse problems a secret from those you work with or live with.
  • You've lied about your substance abuse problem to the people who love you.
  • You deny that you have any type of problem with substance abuse.
  • You've had legal problems because of your substance abuse, such as a DUIor a drug-related legal charge.
  • You spend a great deal of money on drugs and alcohol; possibly even to the point of having financial problems because of it.

Are any of the above symptoms of addiction a factor in your life? If they are, the most important thing you can do for yourself is to get help as soon as possible. A drug or alcohol rehab can provide you with the support you need to stop using substances safely, and they will assist you with getting your life back on track without having to be dependent upon them at all.

Substance Abuse and CEOs and Professionals: Quitting Cold Turkey

Quitting the use of drugs or alcohol cold turkey seems to be a method that many executives find the easiest for them. They assume that they just don't have the time it would take for them to get professional treatment, and so, quitting substances cold turkey is the next best option for them. Unfortunately, doing so is incredibly dangerous, and it can result in a lot of different problems for you if this is the route you choose to take.

When you stop using substances cold turkey – whether you're quitting your use of alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription medications – you're going to experience withdrawal symptoms. There are some types of substances that the withdrawal symptoms can be relatively mild for most people, but alcohol withdrawal (for example) is very dangerous. It's even possible for it to lead to death.

Some common drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • The onset of depression symptoms
  • Anxietyor panic attacks
  • Problems with breathing
  • Upset stomach, including vomiting and nausea
  • Digestive issues, such as constipation or diarrhea
  • The onset of hot or cold sweats
  • The onset of chills
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Feeling fatigued all day long
  • Being unable to sleep at night
  • Having nightmares
  • Shakiness in the extremities

It's even possible to experience even more severe symptoms, such as heart palpitations, blood pressure and pulse irregularities, seizures or a stroke. In some cases people can experience delirium tremens, or DTs. If DTs do not receive immediate medical attention, the individual can die.

Drug and alcohol rehab facilities generally do not recommend for anyone to stop using drugs or alcohol cold turkey. Even if you don't have a prior medical history that indicates you may have a complication when you attempt it, you can still suffer many of the above withdrawal symptoms, and even one or more of the more dangerous symptoms.

Getting professional support is the best way for you to stop using, and when you're in a controlled facility, medical care will be available at all hours of the day or night. If there is a problem or you experience an emergency situation, you'll be able to immediately get the help you need.

Drug Addiction and the Professional: When Does it End?

This is a good question, and for many executives, it doesn’t. Let’s hear from one professional’s experience.

I still remember my first hit of heroin. I was a little nervous, but I figured that Oxy was pretty close to it, anyway. It wasn't too bad, but I have to admit that I was somewhat afraid of what might happen. The effects of heroin are intense, and it was truly unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. I can only explain it as a rush, and my immediate response was that this was a drug that most people just didn't understand. I was sure that it had gotten a bad rap, and although I knew that it was illegal, I figured that if was careful enough, and I didn't overdo it, I'd be OK.

I learned quickly that you have to be careful when you drink alcohol and use heroin at the same time. It took one time of me passing out and almost feeling like I needed to go to the emergency room to learn my lesson on that one. I took to drinking in the mornings before I went into the office, and then using heroin at night, because it did make me sleepy after a while.

I had a family at the time. My wife knew what I was doing, even though I tried to keep it a secret from her. She didn't say much at first, and I think she was hoping that it would be just a phase I was going through and that it would pass eventually. Like any drug, you build up a tolerance when you use heroin, and it didn't take long before I was using almost double the dose I started with. That was when my wife sat down with me to have a talk about my substance abuse problem.

She started by telling me that she understood I was under a lot of stress at the office. She was worried that I had become depressed because of all the problems I was facing at work, and everything I'd been through during that year. She told me she wanted me to stop using drugs and stop drinking so much, and she mentioned how she'd watched the progression of my substance abuse patterns over the last several months.

"I mean…when does it all end?" was the question she asked me. I didn't have an answer for her, but I had no intentions of stopping.

One day, I came home from the office and my wife and our two children were gone. There wasn't even a note, but I didn't need one. I knew she left because of my addiction. The last time she had asked me to stop using I went into a rage because I was so angry with her. Couldn't she see that I needed to use heroin? Why couldn't she understand that I needed to drink that fifth of whiskey before I went to work in the morning? They helped me function, and they kept me sane. She kept telling me that I needed to go to drug and alcohol rehab, but that was the last thing I wanted to do.

Losing my family was a wakeup call for me, but I still didn't have the time to go to addiction treatment. I assumed that they'd want me to go away to some 30-day rehab program, and there was no way I was going to do that. Too much was on the line for my business, and besides, I figured if I was going to kick the heroin habit and at least slow down on the alcohol consumption, I was going to do it on my own. Surely I was strong enough. I'd practically built an empire by then, so I could handle a little withdrawal.

When you stop using any type of substance abruptly, they call it going cold turkey. Let me tell you, this is no joke. I thought it would be a breeze, but it was the hardest thing I ever tried; not to mention the most dangerous. Not only was I detoxing from heroin, but I was also detoxing from alcohol at the same time. I couldn't sleep, I was sweating all the time, I had a fever, and I lost count of how many times I threw up. I honestly felt like I was going to die.

I made it through 48 hours of that, and on the third day, I just couldn't take it anymore. I had saved some of the heroin just in case I needed a little just to get me through the worst part of the detox phase. I crawled to the bathroom and shot up, telling myself that it would be just this last time, and then I was finished.

That was the last thing I remember.

I don't remember my wife coming home, but I'm thankful that she came home when she did. She found me in the bathroom, passed out on the floor with a syringe in my hand. She told me later that she called 911 and an ambulance came to take me to the hospital. Fortunately, they make a drug called Naloxone for overdoses. I would have died that day if she hadn't found me and acted so quickly to get me the help I needed.

Seeking Help for the Addicted Professional: How to Save Your Career

Professionals and executives often have addictions, and yet, most people turn the other way, or they refuse to acknowledge this as a reality. After all, these are individuals that have been successful in life and in business, so for them to have an addiction to alcohol or drugs, it must mean that it's really not all that serious. The truth is that it is very serious, and there are many high-functioning addicts in the world who appear to have it all together on the outside, but on the inside, they're suffering.

For many of them, their marriages are crumbling. Their businesses are falling apart. They are so reliant on their addictions that they just don’t see any other way to cope with the stress.

Perhaps that's how you feel. You may be an addicted executive or professional, and you know that your addiction is really the root of your problems. Drug and alcohol addictions have a tendency to affect people in ways that they never could have imagined, and once they're addicted, they fear that they're destined to remain that way for the rest of their lives. This simply is not true at all.

It's important for you to know how to identify your addiction for what it is. It's possible that you're in denial about even having an addiction, but you know that your substance abuse issue is not doing you much good. Recognizing that you have an addiction is the very first step. Once you do that, you can begin to look at some of the ways you can get the kind of help that will lead you to your recovery from it.

If you're a professional or an executive who has a substance abuse disorder, or you believe that you do, it's so important for you to understand the various options that are available for you to get help. Many professionals don't realize that there are really a lot of great options out there for them to take advantage of, and instead, they will often suffer in silence, refusing to get help.

First of all, you might want to consider going to a luxury rehab instead of what you might consider to be more of a traditional or state-run rehab facility. When you choose to go to a luxury drug and alcohol rehab center, you'll find it to be much more comfortable and amenable to meet your needs.

Luxury rehabs are able to provide you with all the comforts of home that you're used to. You'll have a private room, and there are even those that allow executives like yourself to continue to operate their businesses while they're in treatment. This will allow you to keep your career on track. You may be able to keep in touch with your staff, participate in conference calls, web calls and much more.

When you go to a luxury rehab facility, you'll find that all of your dietary needs will be taken into consideration, even if you require a vegan, gluten free or vegetarian diet. Their goal will be for you to be comfortable so that you can focus on healing from your addiction.

As far as your other treatment options go, you'll find that you have the following available to you:

  • Alcohol and drug detox– This step is the first step in the addiction treatment process. During alcohol and drug detox, you'll either undergo a medication detox, or you'll have a holistic detox. Either way, the process will remove toxins from your body, which will shorten the duration of your withdrawal symptoms and lessen the chance of any medical complications as you recover. You will also find that withdrawal is less severe because it's being controlled.
  • Inpatient drug and alcohol rehab– Inpatient drug and alcohol rehab is usually what most people think of when they think of addiction treatment. When you go to inpatient rehab, you'll stay at the facility for a period of around 30 days. You'll participate with group therapy and meet with a counselor on a one-on-one basis so that you can get to the root cause of your addiction. You'll have additional types of therapy as well, like Yoga, equine therapy and art therapy.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment– Intensive outpatient treatment isn't appropriate for everyone, but for those who aren't able to take off from work, or who have other reasons why they can't go to inpatient treatment, it works very well. Sessions are usually held several nights during the week in the evenings, for a few hours at a time.
  • Outpatient treatment– Outpatient treatment programs are generally reserved for those who have either completed an inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment program, or who have mild addictions. Appointments are usually once a week.
  • 12 Step Programs– 12 Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have been instrumental in the lives of so many people for decades. They provide a group therapy setting for recovery.
  • Residential treatment programs– Residential treatment programs are for those whose addictions are quite severe, and who would benefit from being in a residential setting, receiving treatment for as long as six months, or even longer in some cases.

When you go to drug and alcohol rehab, you'll find that there are a lot of different types of treatment that you experience. Of course, every patient is assigned his or her own treatment plan because all patients' needs are different. What would work for you might not be something that works for another patient. It is essential to look at each patient as an individual with his or her unique requirements for excellent addiction treatment.

When you go to treatment, you'll most likely encounter most or many of the following:

  • Individual counseling sessions– Working with a therapist on an individual basis is going to be critical for your recovery from addiction. When you talk with your therapist, he or she will help you understand the root cause of your addiction. In the event that you're not sure why you became addicted, your therapist will also help you find the answer to that. If you have been through a traumatic event, that will also be treated. Counseling is vital for recovery.
  • Group therapy sessions– Group therapy has been shown to be a very effective way to treat addictions, and that is why it's so important during drug and alcohol rehab. Group therapy sessions allow for peer counseling to take place, and this is a time for you to share with others about your addiction. You will also be able to listen to their stories and learn from one another as you offer support.
  • Family therapy sessions– Drug and alcohol addictions can tear families apart, and this can even happen in the lives of high-powered executives who appear to have it all together. Family sessions help to restore these important relationships and they provide support as families heal.
  • Nutrition therapy– The quality of the food you eat is so important for your recovery because the body processes toxins much faster and more efficiently when it's healthy. Nutrition therapy will ensure that you're getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.
  • Physical fitness– Your physical fitness is also an important component for addiction recovery. You may engage in sports, participate with Yoga, or even just get some daily, regular exercise. This will improve your overall physical and mental health.

Executives often have a really difficult time admitting that they need to get help for their addictions. Even when they know they have addictions, they will resist going to professional treatment.

For many executives, asking for help implies weakness, and this is one reason why so many of them tend to try to stop using on their own first. They also may be fearful about leaving their businesses in the hands of other associates for fear of what might happen while they're gone. However, for many, it's an issue of pride. They simply have too much pride to admit that beating their addictions is something they can't do on their own.

You have a couple of different options available to you, as far as paying for drug and alcohol rehab. If you want to utilize your health insurance plan, you do that. All you need to do is find an addiction treatment facility that participates with it. However, if you would rather not do that for privacy reasons, you can also opt to pay out of pocket. When you contact the facility, ask what the cost would be and the admission specialist you talk with will be able to give you information about how you should proceed.

Luxury Drug and Alcohol Rehab for Professionals at Northpoint Recovery

If you're a professional or an executive with an addiction, getting professional help should be your very first priority. The worst thing you could do would be to try to stop using on your own. Many have attempted this, but there are only a few who have ever been successful. More often than not, professionals put their health at great risk by stopping the use of drugs or alcohol cold turkey, and there are serious medical issues that can result from attempting it. Worst of all, if you relapse, and you go back to using substances the way you were before you stopped, you are at a great risk of relapsing, which could lead to an overdose and even death.

Drug and alcohol treatment for professionals is the best way for you to stop using. The program will allow you to stop using while you're being monitored by a team of specialists in the addiction treatment field who all have your best interests at heart. You'll find that you learn so much about your addiction, and you'll also see that by opting for dual diagnosis treatment, you're much more able to be successful in your recovery because you'll be addressing the issues behind your addiction.

Here at Northpoint Recovery, we've had the ability to work with a number of professionals and executives who all needed to recover from their addictions. Our success rate is quite high when compared to other drug and alcohol treatment centers in our region, and we're available to serve you.

Are you a professional in need of addiction treatment? If so, please contact us today so that we can help you.

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