When most people are asked to picture an addict they will have a mental image of somebody who is at the bottom of society. The stereotypical addict is poor and a failure in life. They are also unemployable and put little effort into their personal appearance. While there are certainly people who fit this stereotype there are also plenty who do not. Addicts come in different stripes and some of them can even be quite successful. It can be the case that even though an individual appears to be doing well in life they are struggling badly with an alcohol or drug addiction.
There are many reasons for why successful people might fall into addiction including:
* There are many careers where hard drinking or drug use is almost considered the norm. In such profession it is easy for people to hide an addiction.
* Creating and maintaining success in life can involve a good deal of stress. People can be tempted to deal with this stress by turning to alcohol or drugs.
* It is suggested that many successful people also share many of the characteristics of the addictive personality. Those character traits that help people come successful can sometimes also be the ones that lead them into addiction.
* Just because an individual appears to be outwardly successful does not mean that they feel the same way inside. The individual may have issues that drive them towards substance abuse.
* Some successful addicts have a dual diagnosis, and this means that they have a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety disorder. This means that the individual may be turning to substance abuse in an attempt to self-medicate.
* There is a myth that substance abuse is connected to creativity. The individual may fully believe that using alcohol or drugs is actually benefiting their life when in fact it is causing huge problems for them.
Alcohol and drug abusers can be highly skilled at hiding their problems. Those who have managed to become successful in life can actually use this as camouflage. They can use the excuse that they work hard so they deserve to play hard. So long as the individual continues to perform well they should be able to easily dismiss any concerns about their drinking and drug use. In many instances family and friend will be completely oblivious to any substance abuse problems. This is because they have a stereotypical image of what it means to be an addict, and their loved one does not fit into this description.
Substance abusers who are successful in life can face unique dangers because:
* Most addicts will agree to get help for their problem when they hit rock bottom. Those who are successful can be protected from hitting this bottom, and may end up suffering more as a result.
* The fact that the individual may be prepared to put up with the substance abuse for longer means that they can do more damage to their health. This means that the individual is more at risk of conditions such as alcoholic liver disease.
* The successful individual may feel that they have more to lose by admitting to their addiction. It could harm their career or reputation.
* The fact that they are doing well in life can be used for justification for their excesses.
* Family and friends may feel that it is unfair to complain about the substance abuse. After all, this person works so hard.
* Hard drinking and substance abuse can be part of the culture in some professions. The individual may feel that they have to continue with this behavior in order to stay on the top – for example, they are expected to entertain clients.
* The individual may feel that they have too many responsibilities, and this means that they just can’t afford to take the time out to deal with their addiction problems.
* The stress of being a success can drive the need for alcohol and drug abuse. The individual may feel unable to cope without these substances to help them get by.
* It is much easier for successful people to ignore their substance abuse problems. They can use their achievements as proof that they are in control.
It is suggested that those who do well in life can share many of the characteristics of the addictive personality. These character traits include:
* The addict often value nonconformity. It can be this urge to rebel that encourages people to create new things and approach problems from new angles.
* Substance abusers can be prone to attention seeking behavior. It can be this desire for attention that drives people to become successful.
* Addicts tend to have a high tolerance for deviant behavior. Some high fliers will be willing to break all the rules in order to achieve their ambitions, and it is this that got them to the top.
* Those people who become addicted to alcohol or drugs will often have a history of impulsive behavior. A tendency to act impulsively can mean that the individual takes chances that other people might balk at.
* A willingness to take huge risks is another character trait that is often shared by the addict and the achiever.
* It is common for addicts and high achievers to claim that they feel alienated from other people. It can be this sense of alienation that drives the individual to accomplish difficult ambitions – they are trying to prove something.
* Addicts tend to suffer from low self-esteem. Even those individuals who have achieved a great deal in life can still feel like a bit of a failure, and it is their low self-esteem that keeps driving them to accomplish more.
* The inability to delay gratification can drive the actions of the substance abuser and the individual hungry for success.
* Both of these types of people can feel that they have an unusually high degree of stress in their life. It is this that gives them the justification to turn to alcohol or drug abuse.
Most of those people who manage to give up an addiction will have done so after hitting rock bottom. It is a common misconception that rock bottom means losing everything, but this is not the case at all. Some people can decide to get help even though they have lost relatively little. Substance abuse is like stepping onto an elevator that is going down. It is up to the individual to decide where they want to get off. Unfortunately some will take the elevator all the way to the bottom, and this can mean death. It is up to each person to decide when they want to get off this elevator. Once the individual has decided that they have lost enough they will then have reached their personal rock bottom. It is always going to be preferable to have a high rock bottom rather than a low rock bottom. The individual can escape their addiction without it damaging their career.
These days there are many options for anyone who wants to escape an addiction. The type of resources available includes:
* An addiction therapist can help the individual understand the reality of their situation, and the likely outcome of continued substance abuse. Once the individual has a clearer picture of their situation they can become more willing to get help.
* There are now rehabs that deal almost exclusively with high functioning substance abusers. This type of discrete rehab can be ideal for those who are concerned about confidentiality and maintaining their anonymity – they can even use a pseudonym.
* It is possible to find recovery fellowship groups where the members will tend to be successful people.