She was at the top of her game. She was a lawyer who traveled all over the country, handling big shopping mall real estate deals. She had four young children, a terrific nanny, an easy-going husband, and a family proud of her achievements.
But what no one knew was that she was an addict. That is, until she was arrested by an undercover narcotics officer when she tried to buy cocaine.
And despite her promises to get help, she eventually was disbarred after a second arrest for buying cocaine, was divorced by her husband, and lost custody of her children. She now attends addiction meetings daily, has a small apartment and a dog, and works in an antiques store.
She is my cousin.
Experts say professionals like her all too often become addicted to everything from pornography to drugs to gambling. And, with the stressful business times being felt from Wall Street to Main Street U.S.A., it can serve as a catalyst to more addictions in the executive ranks.
But unlike other addicts, executives often need a different kind of rehabilitation — one that emphasizes that while they are successful professionally, they need help in their personal life. In fact, top-notch professionals often have to be taught that while they are smart -- it's their thinking that got them into the addiction mess in the first place.
Also, experts say these kinds of addicts are different because these high-ranking employees are more secretive. In other words, you're not going to see them sit in a bar and drink. And, it's another reason they can become addicted to online porn or gambling -- it's easier to hide from others.
But let's back up for a minute and look at where it all started. Experts say these executive addicts often were the kind of children who wanted to achieve a great deal, even from a young age. Often, that meant less playtime and less social interaction. These kids wanted to be the family standout, to go to college and become as self-sufficient as possible, as soon as possible.
And while such self-reliance can lead to professional success, it also feeds narcissistic tendencies that keep these hotshots away from forming close personal relationships. Still, the driven executive often doesn’t think of this as a problem — until he or she begins handling stress with too much drinking, or stealing from the company coffers, or buying cocaine -- instead of turning to personal relationships for support.
At the same time, it is that driven, focused personality that makes executives good candidates for rehabilitation, because they understand how much they have to lose. Let's hope they get the message before it's too late and they lose everything they've worked so hard to gain.