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High-functioning addicts with big jobs are all around us

Posted by on Nov. 18, 2013 at 10:42 PM
  • 25 Replies
1 mom liked this

Toronto mayor could be your neighbor

By Patrick R. Krill
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 0007 GMT (0807 HKT)
 Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is surrounded by the media as he leaves his office at Toronto City Hall on November 15.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is surrounded by the media as he leaves his office at Toronto City Hall on November 15

Editor's note: Patrick R. Krill is an attorney, clinician and board-certified, licensed alcohol and drug counselor. He is the director of the Legal Professionals Program at Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center.

(CNN) -- If you're not Canadian, chances are you have never been as acutely aware of the political happenings of that country as you are now. Rob Ford, the embattled and out-of-control mayor of Toronto, has made sure of that, with his erratic behavior blazing across our screens more boldly and brightly than the reddest maple leaf that nation has ever produced.


Ford's booze-soaked stunts and possibly drug-driven debacles -- now feeding the tabloids and late night talk shows more meat than they could digest in a year -- are probably nothing you haven't read about, talked about, thought about, or, unfortunately, laughed about.


But what you might not have thought about is this: You know this man. You know and respect this man. He works with you. He works for you. He lives next door to you. He's related to you. He might even be you. He is, in fact, everywhere. And there's nothing funny about it.

Oftentimes functioning at levels you would never expect from someone with an addiction, the Rob Ford in your life is trying your case, prescribing your medication, running your company, investing your money, flying your plane and governing your city. And guess what? He or she is doing it from the grips of a progressive disease, making it look easy until, well, one day it suddenly looks horrible. I know -- I've been there.

Was my own powerful reckoning with alcohol as excruciatingly documented and publicly consequential? Mercifully, no. Not even close. Could it have been, under different circumstances? Yes, perhaps. When you laugh at the mayor of Toronto, you are laughing at the struggles of countless people like him that you'll never know about. People who you otherwise admire and sometimes even vote for.

You see, the biggest difference between Mayor Ford and millions of other alcoholics and addicts who have built a successful career isn't that his behaviors are so much more shocking, it's that his are alone in the center of a spotlight, on full display like the unsightly scar most of us are able to keep private. And he's the mayor of one of the largest cities in North America.

But if you dim that light and pause those digital recorders, you'll see the mayor is not alone. He's surrounded. Surrounded by a vast sea of others shrouded in the same, strong, delusional fog of denial. A fog that's born from the marriage of disease and diploma, sickness and success. And, you're surrounded by them, too.

Hiding in plain sight, addicted yet outwardly successful professionals are a carefully disguised contradiction. We don't have a problem with our drinking. Other people have a problem with their drinking. You know, the type of people who couldn't do half of what we've done. The people who couldn't even get our job, let alone do it. Those people.

Even when startling evidence to the contrary begins piling up, as it so clearly has with Mayor Ford, we stick to our story and cling to our capabilities. To paraphrase the mayor, if we were alcoholics, we couldn't show up to work every day.

Could we?

Yes. And we do. Until the bitter end and long after the other relationships in our lives have tanked, we suit up and show up. We're professionals. And as long as we've got that, we're not alcoholics. We're not addicts. Or so our inner monologue goes. But, if you pierce through that devastatingly convincing argument we sell ourselves, and you, each of us is a walking bundle of profound denial, tightly bound up by an impressive tailored suit, spotless lab coat or an elegant black robe.

Bolstered by a track record of academic or professional victories, we've got a deep stockpile of accomplishments to call upon in our war against reality. We have a formidable arsenal of achievements deftly deployed against you and your little idea that we need help. That's cute -- that you think we need help. But you don't get it. We're not the kind of people who need help. Do you even understand how talented and smart we are?

Although denial is the hallmark characteristic of all alcoholics and addicts, unfortunately for us ours comes with a resume that pumps our ego and demands your respect. Until, that is, it eventually doesn't.

Last year I was sitting in my office with a client -- a highly successful, highly regarded attorney with a highly advanced drinking problem -- who after years of fervently denying his problem finally found his truth. He looked me dead in the eye, breathed a slow sigh of calm relief and said plainly: "The jig is up." From that moment forward, his life changed. His denial had collapsed, thankfully before he did.

So what was responsible for his long overdue recognition of the obvious and surrender to reality? It was the fact that those around him had stopped excusing his reluctance to seek help out of deference to his professional stature. No longer were people overlooking his sickness out of respect for his career. More important, neither was he.

As our science moves toward a better understanding of addiction and our culture moves toward a greater acceptance of it, it's important to keep in mind that this disease walks upright through all corridors of our society, even those in the house of that accomplished professional next door. We might want to stop laughing now.

How far you go in life depends on your being: tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong.  Because someday in life you would have been one or all of these.  GeorgeWashingtonCarver


by on Nov. 18, 2013 at 10:42 PM
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Replies (1-10):
stormcris
by Christy on Nov. 18, 2013 at 11:02 PM
3 moms liked this

Of course....

Someone once said the only thing that makes you an addict is getting caught. I think that works out for most things. A guy gets caught sleeping around he becomes a sex addict. Heck if not what cocaine does to your heart and such it would be the wonder drug. The med school problem solver and even after for several. Power brings you much and money keeps it quiet. 

stacymomof2
by Ruby Member on Nov. 18, 2013 at 11:06 PM
I know some functional alcoholics. Like the article says, they are functional...until they aren't. I do feel bad for this mayor. He is disintigrating and his disease is chronic. He will have to overcome it or it can kill him. Sad.
FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Nov. 18, 2013 at 11:12 PM

Don't I know it.

They are functioning until they have to face reality.  Sometimes reality is far worse than the bottom of the bottle.  

Heisenberg
by on Nov. 18, 2013 at 11:13 PM

My ex works in HVac. He's the sweetest guy you'd ever meet. Everyone loves him. He's been a heroin addict for 20 years now. Not even his boss has a clue.

lga1965
by on Nov. 18, 2013 at 11:21 PM

 Well, now I am depressed.

Geeeeee......

ParanormalSarah
by Member on Nov. 18, 2013 at 11:24 PM
1 mom liked this

I really struggle with this because as someone who worked as a drug treatment counselor - the legal system is what determines 'drug' and therefore the label 'addict'.  Caffiene is a HUGE stimulant that most Americans are 'addicted to' and it is only allowed because it is legal. Cocaine and other drugs actually help people function and one must consider drugs like prescription medication and alcohol as well when attaching the word 'addict'. 


Mrs.Pedro
by Bronze Member on Nov. 19, 2013 at 1:47 AM
That's my dad. He isn't some big shot in a corporate or blue collar world. He's a foreman for a family(out extended family) roofing and supply business. He drinks everyday after work until he goes to bed. He's gotten better though surprisingly... He doesn't drink until he's drunk anymore. He switched from beer to wine so there's not as much around to drink at once. He's slowly progressed to this over the course of his life... He started drinking as a teen, went into cocaine, alcohol and pot, then beer and pot, then wine and pot, then just wine mostly. He knows he's addicted.
viv212
by Gold Member on Nov. 19, 2013 at 2:05 AM
Wow. I've never known anyone that can hide it for that long. I can see heroin addicts because my dad was one. But some won't know see the signs in the person.
What does he do when he's sick and he has to work?


Quoting Heisenberg:

My ex works in HVac. He's the sweetest guy you'd ever meet. Everyone loves him. He's been a heroin addict for 20 years now. Not even his boss has a clue.

MentorMom1
by on Nov. 19, 2013 at 2:11 AM

This begs the question: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?


Quoting stormcris:

Of course....

Someone once said the only thing that makes you an addict is getting caught. I think that works out for most things. A guy gets caught sleeping around he becomes a sex addict. Heck if not what cocaine does to your heart and such it would be the wonder drug. The med school problem solver and even after for several. Power brings you much and money keeps it quiet. 



stormcris
by Christy on Nov. 19, 2013 at 8:01 AM

Always!

Quoting MentorMom1:

This begs the question: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?


Quoting stormcris:

Of course....

Someone once said the only thing that makes you an addict is getting caught. I think that works out for most things. A guy gets caught sleeping around he becomes a sex addict. Heck if not what cocaine does to your heart and such it would be the wonder drug. The med school problem solver and even after for several. Power brings you much and money keeps it quiet. 




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