The stigma attached to addiction is extensive and shameful for those who struggle with substance use particularly for professionals with addiction. Society has a way of seeing people as labels. When someone is faced with addiction, there is the fear of being labeled as an “addict” or “junkie,” rather than a person who is struggling with substance use.
Again society will do the same for someone’s occupation. They are often seen as their title, “therapist,” “doctor,” “engineer,” etc. This lack of person-first language in society creates an unhealthy identification with what we do or struggle with, with who we are as people.
The skewed perception of addiction is one that is blown out of proportion, and each case is seen as severe. This creates a difficult environment for those in professional positions to seek help without immense shame and fear of losing their credibility.
Except, a professional struggling with substance use is more common than we think, and it is not the end of a career. “the majority of people[with addiction] – an estimated 96% – actually function quite well most of the time: They are leaders in the workplace, medical doctors, attorneys, dentists, executives, entrepreneurs, and high-performance salespeople” (“Professional Job” 2020).
Additionally, Wagener (2020) shares that within the professional sector, one could see a business with 5,000 employees, and approximately 15 out of 250 of the higher executives experience difficulties with addiction. Addiction knows no boundaries and can often be the result of unresolved trauma, adverse childhood experiences, grief, life stressors, etc.
Hopefully, the reminder that you are not alone creates comfort. However, Wagener (2020) cautions the professional who struggles with substance use to not buy into the delusion of being a high-functioning substance user.
“Addiction will always take its toll when it is left untreated. Someone keeping it together on the outside may be able to delude themselves and others that they are fine, but problematic patterns of drug abuse are often insidious in their development”.
So as professionals, how do we begin the journey out of the dark? Well, the more one hides their addiction, the more powerful it becomes. To start, find a trusted friend, therapist, doctor, religious/spiritual mentor, or community member and share your struggles with substance use.
More often than not, everyone knows someone who is already in recovery, and reaching out to this person may provide a safe, warm hand-off into your own recovery. Attend online meetings, or if your area is conducting in-person meetings, attend one that feels right.
The meetings available are vast, and it provides you a safe space to share and process what is going on for you. The power of having someone listen to your story and bear witness to your struggles is immensely healing.
Additionally, engaging recovery from a harm reduction perspective can be a more approachable avenue and gives you space to become more empowered by creating achievable goals. An example of harm-reduction is lessening the amount of the used substance in a day.
It is advisable to adopt coping skills to aid in this process. Coping skills can include: talking to friends, going for a walk, making a meal, clench, and release of your hands, deep breathing, and many more that feel right for you.
Professional Job With A Professional Addiction. (2020, January 02). Retrieved August 15, 2020, from https://vertavahealth.com/blog/professional-job-with-a-professional-addiction/
Wagener, D. (2019, November 04). Drug Use and Addiction Among High-Earning Professionals (S. Thomas, Ed.). Retrieved August 15, 2020, from https://www.rehabs.com/high-earning-drug-users/
About the Author:
Jessica Boghosian, ACSW, is a Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker and a Clinical Therapist at Bright Road Recovery in Claremont, CA. She lives for the present moment and shares her warmth and joy at every chance she gets. Jessica currently works with individuals with eating disorders at various levels of care, including Residential, Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Outpatient, and Outpatient. She also works with individuals with other mental health diagnoses at an outpatient level of care.
She holds a Master’s in Social Work from the University of New England and is currently working towards licensure. Jessica’s love for her work with patients at Bright Road Recovery is clear to see. She aims to meet each patient where they are at and walks beside them in their journey to recovery. Jessica honors each patient’s individual journey and dedicates herself to increasing their love of life and themselves.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on September 21, 2020
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 21, 2020
Published on AddictionHope.com