Business professionals who are dealing with a substance abuse problem are more common than one might think. Addiction is no respecter of age, gender, ethnic background or income level. Career-focused professionals typically also have the intelligence and critical thinking skills to hide their addiction from family members and co-workers. For executives, hiding an addiction is a top priority compared to other substance abusers since their reputation, title, public image and relationships are endangered much more than those who don’t have these ties.
It’s often common that executives remain in denial of their addiction much longer than others because some are able to maintain a stable career while deep into their addiction. Rationalization from addicted professionals can be tainted, with responses to questions about their substance abuse such as “I work hard and deserve it,” “I need something to cope with the stress” or “how could I be so successful if I have an addiction?” For lawyer Ken Lawson, it began with a shoulder injury and a prescribed painkiller.
Ken Lawson’s story
After four years as a successful attorney at an accredited law firm, he started his own practice in 1993 in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1999, he tore his rotator cuff while working out and lifting weights. He was prescribed the painkiller Percocet following his surgery. However, he continued to take the tablets after his shoulder injury had long healed.
“You think for some reason, because it’s prescribed, that somehow it just can’t be the same type of drug or have the same effect,” Lawson said. “I always thought, ‘at least I’m not hooked on crack’, like that makes a difference.”
It wasn’t long until his license to practice law was revoked because of misconduct related to his addiction to prescription painkillers. In between years of escalating dependence on prescription drugs, recreational drug abuse that encompassed a $1,000 a day habit and the demise of his career, the only thing that saved Lawson was incarceration. He pled guilty to the felony of obtaining controlled substances for fraudulent means and served 10 months in federal prison.
On his first night there, Lawson said he enjoyed the best sleep he’d gotten in a long time.
“What I had to come to understand was that I was so far along, I just could not quit on my own so it was consequences that got me sober.”
Common behaviors of addicts
In other cases involving addiction amongst professionals, some colleagues befriend addicts even after receiving the knowledge of their problem. By normalizing substance abuse, these individuals become co-dependents and enablers, each encouraging and supporting the other. Addicts also develop skills of manipulation; addicts may cover up financial problems due to substance purchases or be deceitful about withdrawing funds from accounts secluded for retirement.
When drugs are unavailable, the addict often becomes irritable and begins blaming other people for imagined shortcomings to divert attention from the real problem. With so much to lose, they go to great lengths to hide their excessive drug use. They may hide empty bottles or drug paraphernalia or drive to different areas to buy substances. People who abuse prescription medications are known to visit multiple doctors in different locations to avoid suspicion.
Helping your co-worker
If you feel that a colleague is battling with an addiction, it’s important to let them know you are concerned about their well being, relationships and career. If you would like to refer a potential patient to one of Sovereign Health Group’s treatment programs, see our Admissions for Professionals page on suggested steps to take. Please call Sovereign Health at 866-629-0442 to speak with a member of our Admissions Team.