As humans, we inherently desire belonging. Rather than being something that is simply nice to have, the need for belongingness is so deeply instilled within us that, without it, we can lose our sense of place in the world and experience painful emotional distress. In fact, Maslow identified belongingness as the third most important human need in his hierarchy, only after basic physiological and safety needs. In its absence, our ability to develop self-esteem and self-actualization are severely compromised, and we may experience severe psychological and even physical disturbances that keep us from reaching our potential or experiencing true joy.
Most of us struggle to find a sense of belonging at various times in our lives, and this is particularly true of highly accomplished individuals, such as executives and other high-powered professionals, who often find success through their singularity and live a lifestyle that makes it difficult to cultivate belongingness through ordinary means. When you have few peers and long work hours, you can find yourself in a constant struggle to satisfy your need for community and camaraderie. When you add drug addiction to the equation, a profound loneliness can overtake you, compounding your suffering and pushing you deeper into substance abuse. This is precisely the time you need belonging most.
Unfortunately, even executives who recognize their own addictions and want to get clean often face significant internal barriers to treatment due to a perceived absence of hypothetical belongingness. When you picture what general addiction treatment looks like, you can’t see yourself there and struggle to find natural points of connection between you and the other participants. How will you be able to immerse yourself in a treatment environment in which your own experience is not reflected, where you do not see others like yourself? These are real and valid concerns shared by many executives who are considering treatment, concerns that we now recognize often stand between addiction and recovery. To break down those barriers, we are now witnessing the emergence of a growing number of addiction treatment programs designed specifically for executives.
Addiction can affect anyone, but it doesn’t affect everyone the same way. While there are common threads running through the lives of those who abuse drugs or alcohol, the specific impact addiction has on your lived experience varies drastically based on your social location. Although you and the woman across the room may both wake up with shaky hands after your nightly withdrawal, the impact addiction has on your life and your concerns regarding treatment may be vastly different.
Executives are often high-functioning addicts, which means you may have a better illusion of control over your drug use. You often remain esteemed by colleagues, who may be invested in your denial, and you typically face tremendous pressure to perform at high levels despite your growing addiction. Your addiction itself may have emerged or been augmented by this exact pressure and you may think that common ways to cope with stress and triggers—a good diet, enough sleep, exercise, time to decompress with family and friends—are unavailable to you due to your demanding lifestyle. In fact, the very personality traits and behaviors that drive your success may be deeply connected to your drug use.
In terms of treatment, you may have very legitimate concerns about the impact of time away on your business or the career you have worked so hard at developing, including stakeholders who depend on you. If you are a high-profile individual, the fear of public exposure may keep you from getting the help you need. After experiencing an illustrious professional life, it can also be difficult for you to reconcile the image you have of yourself as a competent, self-sufficient, successful person with the reality that you are an addict who needs help. Negotiating these parts of your identity and accepting help can be painful in a way not fully understood by those who have not experienced it.
Camaraderie, Compassion, and Belongingness
There is something extraordinarily powerful about another person saying, “I see you, I hear you, I understand you because I have been in your shoes.” This is part of the reason peer support has become a central component of recovery work; those who feel meaningful connections to their peers are more likely to stay in treatment, more deeply engage with treatment, and experience better outcomes. Executives addiction treatment programs provide opportunities for you to experience this power by surrounding you with others who share the unique circumstances of your substance abuse and recovery. In the company of compassionate peers with histories similar to your own, you can explore your addiction, its impact on your life, and the barriers to healing while learning from those who have first-hand experience dealing with the same issues.
Seeing your own lived experiences both before and during treatment reflected in others is highly validating and vital to breaking through the isolation high-functioning executives so often feel in the midst of their struggle with substance abuse and early recovery. It allows you to develop a sense of camaraderie in a group, creating an environment in which you feel safe honestly expressing your innermost thoughts and feelings and sharing what you have been through. This sense of common understanding is essential to meeting your need for belongingness, ensuring that this primal desire is satisfied and that you are able to truly engage in the work of recovery. You are not an island, and you do not have to walk the path of healing alone.
Finding the Right Care
While the number of executive addiction treatment programs is growing, all programs are not created equal. It is imperative to seek out the highest-quality care available in an intimate environment that will nurture your recovery in the best way possible. This means finding an expertly designed treatment program that offers a full range of empirically-based interventions to take you from the earliest stages of withdrawal to comprehensive continuing care after you leave the facility.
It also means connecting with a treatment program with extensive, demonstrable experience addressing the specialized needs of executives and creating personalized treatment plans based on your individual circumstances. Not only will these programs be capable of offering the kind and quality of care you need, but they will also be populated by others like you, allowing you to experience the benefits of true peer support. In this environment, you will be to fully nourish yourself—mind, body, and spirit—to create a strong foundation for continued personal growth and sobriety.
Alta Mira offers a comprehensive suite of treatment programs for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our world-class programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.
Image Source: Unsplash user Jonna Fransa