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high achievers, Substance Abuse and High Achievement: They’re Not Strangers

Substance Abuse and High Achievement: They’re Not Strangers

No one is completely immune to addiction—not even the highest of society’s achievers. For many, living in the United States means living in a culture of high achievement. Our culture seems to demand that we work tirelessly to improve our financial and educational prospects. Such a tall order can be motivating–but it might also ignite or exacerbate a struggle with substances. If you or a family member, spouse, or partner is successful and struggles with addiction, you’re not alone. 

It is not uncommon that achieving at a ‘high’ level leaves individuals stressed, sad, and searching for respite. From food service to finance—employees report struggling with some sort of addiction in multiple professions such as:

  • Education
  • Finance and insurance
  • Health care and social assistance
  • Public administration
  • Mining and construction
  • Accommodations and food services industries

Often, achievement culture demands its individuals be highly motivated. At the same time, we are also told to monitor our stress and to make personal well-being and happiness a priority. Because our culture ties self-worth, inner peace, and self-esteem to external accomplishments, people may frequently sacrifice their own goals to strive for what society values: the good job, the breathtaking vacation abroad, the happy engagement, or the shiny new car. However, these things may or may not fulfill the individual achieving them. 

During an earlier time in the United States, social recognition could be communicated verbally between people. Today, recognition often manifests in the form of likes and positive comments on social media platforms. As technology and the need to achieve abound in the modern age, simply being oneself in 2020 may feel like failure when it does not receive many—if any—likes on Instagram. But even high-achieving people who get all of those likes can feel empty despite their successes. This feeling may nudge them toward substance abuse in order to achieve solace. 

If high achievers are put in a vulnerable position when it comes to addiction, what can be said of those who openly fail to meet the standards of a high-achieving society? Unfortunately, the self-esteem of such individuals may come under serious attack. Those who find that they lack the talent, skill, ability, or motivation to be ‘successful’ may turn to heavy drinking, heavy drug use or other forms of addictive behaviors for temporary relief from feelings of disappointment, guilt, shame, or low-self esteem. This puts ‘low-achievers’ in an extremely vulnerable place as well when battling substance abuse. 

Great Oaks Recovery Center understands that people are more than their successes or their failures. For this reason, we offer an array of treatment options that help people find their own version of success in their work, home, social, and inner lives. 

For those who pride themselves on their professional lives and ability to maintain financial independence, Great Oaks offers the Ready to Work Program. This holistic program focuses on maintaining and strengthening relations between employers and their employees who struggle with addiction. Additionally, the program offers equine therapy and education on stress management through yoga. The program also offers gender-specific process groups that provide individuals with community, support, and encouragement. 

For those who pride themselves on their success in the family sphere, Great Oaks additionally offers the Family Program. This program is an excellent place to begin learning how families can create safe environments to reflect, understand one another’s different viewpoints, and let go of embarrassment surrounding failure. With a holistic approach to the importance and influence of family in an individual’s path to recovery, the Family Program offers tools for the continual progress of a family as a unit, not solely the individual struggling with an addiction. 

Both the Ready to Work Program and the Family Program overlap, as Great Oaks understands that success at home affects success at work and vice versa. Further, these programs may help motivate all types of achievers to see the potential to achieve at home, at work, and in their recovery. A struggle with substance abuse can be singular for an individual, but at Great Oaks, healing is both an individual and shared achievement of the highest degree.