How Residential Treatment Helps Executives Learn to Manage Addiction Triggers

For high-powered business executives living with addiction, drug and alcohol triggers are everywhere. Residential treatment helps executives learn to manage those triggers by laying a solid foundation for trigger management and giving them opportunities to learn how to manage those triggers in hands-on environments. In doing so, residential treatment programs give C-suite execs a wealth of skills from which they can pull when they return to the executive environment.

It was 8:00 a.m., and Adam was at the bar. It was only the mini-bar in his suite-sized hotel room, but that was because he knew that drinking openly at the bar downstairs would have been an amateur move. Adam had come to San Francisco to meet with a group of potential new clients, and he intended to do so flying high. Just a few years ago, he would have handled this meeting without having a drink (or a couple) beforehand, but in the executive world, there’s an opportunity to drink around every corner: on the plane; at the hotel bar; in the hotel room; before big presentations; at after-hours business meetings (AKA meetings at bars); in the office, Mad-Men style—and he couldn’t resist any of them.

For the 20% of Americans who have high-functioning addictions, there’s a lot at stake when it comes to dealing with addiction triggers in high-pressure situations. Between managing your brand, brokering new deals, and making sure that you have enough money to grow, it can feel like the fate of your company lies in your hands, and often, that’s because it does. In situations like these, addiction is a variable you don’t want to take chances with, but is residential treatment the right option? Will it be worth the time you’ll have to spend away from work? How can you be sure that you won’t backslide the moment you return to the executive environment? They’re all valid questions, and if you’re considering residential treatment, it’s important to have them answered before you go.

Setting the Foundation for Managing Addiction Triggers

To help keep you from backsliding once you return to the executive lifestyle, residential treatment sets the foundation for trigger management by teaching you how to replace drug and alcohol use with healthier (and more effective) coping strategies for stress, like

Obviously, you’re probably not going to want to call your therapist or make a salad in the middle of a merger, but these strategies help you manage the “after-hours” kind of work stress that can cause you to drink, and, in the long-term, help you build a foundation of wellness for those “in-the-moment” triggers. Take exercise as an example. Imagine that you’re working late, as usual, and an important call doesn’t go the way you want it to. Ordinarily, you’d pop open a decanter and pour yourself a glass. But you’ve gone to treatment and worked specifically on resisting that urge, so you hit the gym instead, because you know that’s the most effective way for you to deal with that stress. You’ll have put that pattern in place while you were in treatment, in an environment where staff both supported you and held you accountable, so it’ll be an established pattern, and you’ll know exactly how to step into it.

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Learning How to Manage Addiction Triggers in Real Time

The residential treatment environment is a flexible one, one that allows you to take calls and handle some work responsibilities while you’re there. That way, you’ll get hands-on experience managing triggers in an environment supported by your treatment team, and in that sense, it’s a kind of “practice ground” for when you’re back in the real world.

That practice starts with working closely with your therapist in advance to brainstorm healthy, constructive ways that you can respond to stressful situations that come up on the fly. It’s likely that you’ll already have a good sense of what triggers you, but if you don’t, your therapist can help you identify those triggers. They’ll also help you strategize around how you can handle tough interpersonal conflicts and say no in situations where you’d be working outside of your role, and, if it makes sense, they might even encourage you to try holistic therapies like mindfulness meditation, which can help you stay calm in stressful situations.

Once you’ve established those strategies, you’ll get a chance to use them when you take on a work responsibility while you’re in treatment. Then, you’ll debrief with your therapist to deepen your understanding of the triggers that came up and how you handled them. In that session, you’ll talk about the strategies that worked, the strategies that didn’t, and what you can do differently next time.

Taking Trigger Management Skills Back to the Executive World

In an environment in which one one false step can have lasting consequences for yourself and for your company, addiction isn’t something you want to take chances with. That’s why it’s important to seek treatment for addiction as soon as you can, in a program that makes a point of setting you up for success once you’re back in the executive environment.

Of course, you’ll have to stick to your continuing care plan once you’ve returned home, and that might mean attending 12-step meetings, finding a sober companion who can help you abstain from using, or even hiring an executive recovery coach as extra support. Regardless of what you’ve decided to put in place as part of your continuing care, you’ll have learned the skills you need to resist addiction triggers and then put them into practice, so you’ll be well-equipped for the task.

Residential treatment may take you away from work for 30 days, but it’s an investment in both your sobriety and your career, and that’s why it’s worth it.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive addiction treatment options in a serene San Francisco Bay setting. If you’re a business executive struggling with addiction, connect with us to learn more about how we can help you learn to manage your addiction triggers and find your path to long-term recovery.