The Complicated Relationship Between Work and Substance Abuse: Recovering Addicts Share Their Stories
Whether work is going great or things have taken a downward turn at the office, our careers can have a complicated relationship with substance abuse. For some, drinking heavily or using dangerous substances becomes the only way to cope with the stress and pressures of work; for others, career success can be an unexpected fuel to their habit. We recently spoke with recovering addicts who told us just how slippery the slope to addiction can be, and the role their work lives played in their sobriety journey.
Success opened a dangerous door for Ryan
After graduating college, Ryan landed an internship with the company of his dreams. Moving to the city sparked regular drinking — with the bars only steps from his home, his alcohol abuse easily escalated.
When Ryan saw an opportunity to break out on his own, things seemed to be falling into place.
“I started my own company as an artist manager in the music industry,” he explained. “I had my dream job at 22, was engaged to the love of my life, and traveling around the country. But, with that lifestyle, there was a lot of drinking — for free.”
His substance abuse began to take its toll on his career, and eventually it cost him everything.
“After a series of events, and spending large amounts of money on alcohol, I lost my biggest clients. My fiance found out I’d been shady with some business deals and broke off our engagement. That’s when I really got crazy with alcohol. I was drinking and smoking pot all the time.
“I went from having everything to nothing — just a lot of addict friends,” he reflected.
Now that he’s found lasting sobriety, Ryan said he’s making up for lost time and learning to be his best self — both professionally and personally.
A strong career move was blurred by Cori’s addiction
Substances had taken over Cori’s life, and she admitted her use became the most important thing to her. But things took a positive turn when she got a new job.
“I got an insurance job with a huge, national insurance company, and for a while, the booze got better,” she said. “My boyfriend and I were still drinking, but I stopped doing as much coke.”
Soon, though, even success at work couldn’t curb her alcohol addiction.
“When I’d get a promotion, I’d drink. When I wasn’t doing well, I’d drink. Any excuse I could find, I would drink,” Cori recalled.
After many years of obstacles and hard work, Cori finally found the path to recovery. She said a major part of balancing life’s challenges — at work, at home, or anywhere in-between — is taking care of her own well-being.
“I do yoga, I journal, I go to therapy. I have the core tools that I need to stay sober, even when I am going through some very dark challenges in my life,” she said.
John’s boss saved him by suggesting treatment
John had found great success in his career, even while battling post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, and other mental health conditions. He thought his life was under control until his boss sat him down for a talk.
“One day, the CEO brought me into his office and told me, ‘You obviously need help. I can’t help you in the way that you need it. But I can let you go so you can find that help.’ I was fired.
“For the first time in my life, I had to be honest,” John explained. “I called my wife and told her, ‘I need help. I just got fired, and I need help.’”
Despite attempts at sobriety, nothing stuck. Eventually, his habit landed him in the hospital where, if you ask John, divine intervention stepped in: the director of a rehab facility happened to be at the same hospital and ended up in the same room as his wife.
“I don’t know how, but God worked it out and she spoke with my wife,” he said. “My wife called Addiction Campuses that night — and by the next day, I was on a plane to [Texas’] Treehouse.”
It was this facility that not only saved John’s life, but gave him the career of his dreams. After graduating from his treatment program, he took a job with the company, and has devoted his career to helping others find their own sober paths.
Life in sobriety, including the return to work, is an adjustment. But Ryan shared insight that just about anyone going through a tough time can find comforting:
“In recovery, each day, something happens to make my life more manageable. It’s not always easy. Some days it’s hard. But it’s so worth it.”