Successful And Addicted: A Business Executive’s Struggle With Addiction

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A Business Executive At The Height Of His Prime

I managed a company for a long time. I was the C.E.O. of an influential American business in Seattle, the name of which (for obvious reasons) is withheld. The company flourished under my leadership. I was a strong leader, direct with my intentions, and true to my motives. However, no company lives and dies without a bit of struggle, and a few years back there was a dip in the productivity of my employees. Since I’ve recovered, I’m able to admit what caused that disruption. It was me. More specifically, it was my addiction to cocaine.

Even CEOs Face The Same Problems Of Peer Pressure

Even business administrators are human, and any CEO can be susceptible to the addictive allure of substance abuse. With a ton of money in my pocket, a thriving business under my command, and a life that, I thought, couldn’t be ruined by anything, I was sure that I’d solidified my position in life. I decided I could finally try some new things. I’d turned the drug down a million times before. Certain I had established my place in society, I thought – what the hell. I took my first line at a national board meeting, offered by an established CEO of another company who seemed intelligent and experienced. After I took this first line, things quickly changed – though I didn’t see the changes for a long time. At first, everything felt right. It felt blissful. Everyone was interested in me, in my past, my evolution into a CEO, my family, the problems I’d had. Everyone seemed so concerned about my life, and the nuances that had slowly etched themselves into my personality. They wanted to know what created the person I was. Everyone loved me. I was just so fascinating! At least, that’s what I thought. Turns out, just like anyone who’s on cocaine, I loved myself. I loved myself to the point I could convince myself that the folk surrounding me wanted to hear about me. Just as much as I wanted to talk about myself, I was certain that the folk around me wanted to hear my blathering.

Addiction Strikes The Most Diligent Drug Users

I started to wake up in the mornings wondering why I didn’t always have the same pep that I’d had at the meetings the night before. I’d shared so much of myself with others, with such positive response – why should I not continue to be as youthful and energetic? I began picking up bags of cocaine before work, doing it behind my desk or in bathrooms, and with that, I brought an energetic atmosphere the workplace had never seen before.

Drug Abuse Causes Instability In Any Situation

My business changed during these days, and not for the better. I began hiring employees based on their charisma and charm – anyone who could keep up with me in a conversation was good enough to keep around the office. My immediate crew became a hyperactive, face-first group of employees who probably had cocaine problems themselves. Not only did I begin hiring wackos – I began firing employees who had been consistently productive. While talking to long-term employees, I grew bored with anyone who couldn’t keep me engaged in conversation long enough to forget about any faults they might have. Because of my habit, I began letting go of some amazing employees. My cocaine use became cocaine abuse, and I began to lose my sense of responsibility. I began managing my employees based on a strict itinerary:

  • Charisma was important. As a hyper-energized cocaine addict, efficient communication was a priority.
  • Confidence was key. Anyone who couldn’t match my confidence wasn’t worthy of a job at my company.
  • Vigor was necessary. Even though most of the functions at work involved data entry or other simple typing jobs, my strung-out mind demanded that people be as vigilant and ‘up’ as I was.

Efficient data-entry associates, inventory managers, copywriters, and translators were cast from my team of workers for lack of these traits. A lot of these particular employees were introverted, and enjoyed the fact that they can work on a keyboard without having to socialize. Me, in my drugged-up state, didn’t consider this, and when I’d bring them into the office to have a chat, I’d be put-off by their social ineptitude. It didn’t matter if they can type a hundred words per minute, or file a dozen spreadsheets of the company’s receipts in an hour. If they couldn’t effectively convince me through my adrenaline-induced conversation that they were worth keeping around, I didn’t want them on the team. Of course, I made no correlation at the time – but my business began to suffer.

  • Business suffered.
  • Stock value decreased.
  • Employee satisfaction diminished.
  • Productivity fell.

I worked my charismatic employees harder, and I fired more of the skilled, introverted workers I’d already hired, in an attempt to return the business to its prior standing. The ratings continued to fall.

Recovery Can Be Disguised As An Inconvenience

Looking back, I consider myself blessed to have had a family throughout this entire ordeal. As my use of cocaine went through the roof, my family life began to suffer. I considered this to be a part of my own disheartened attitude at my company’s stocks faltering. The resulting depression hurt my sense of self – I was failing to live up to my potential as a father, because my business was going down. Relentlessly, I tried to convince my wife that it was my own depression and insecurities rubbing off on the family. I was sorry – so I believed. I apologized to no end, and my wife believed me. She wanted to believe me forever, but as my attitude began to grow sour and my relationships grew more fragile, it became clear that she wasn’t going to support me through this. My wife offered me the good fortune of a blessing in disguise. She found one of my bags of cocaine and immediately realized my issues were caused by a drug problem. At the time, I was furious – it wasn’t the drugs that caused my anger issues, or my business to falter. The faltering business caused my emotional issues, and had nothing to do with my ‘occasional’ use of cocaine. When my wife threatened to leave me, taking our child, at first, I was angry. She was overreacting. My child had nothing to do with this, nor did the drugs. Still, I loved her, and I was willing to put the bag down for a while to satiate her ridiculous assumptions – after all, since the cocaine was no cause of my problems, I’d be able to put it away for a while without issue. Right?

Addiction Is A Painful Process. Acceptance Is More Painful.

When I went to work without doing cocaine for the first time, I was kicked in the head by withdrawal.

  • Headaches, more persistent and painful than I’d felt in ages, wracked me.
  • I was nauseous to no end.
  • I felt true anxiety for the first time.

Since I believed cocaine had no part in my problems, I didn’t recognize that I was in withdrawal. So bad were the symptoms that I called the hospital and spent the day gagging in the E.R. Tylenol didn’t work, Tums didn’t work, and yet, they determined nothing was wrong with me. I went home so stressed and confused that I decided to scrape my old bags of cocaine and chop up a line big enough to feel something. When I snorted that line, all my symptoms disappeared, and I realized that I’d been going through withdrawal.Whoops. I was high enough to consider rationally what my wife had said to me – I was becoming an addict, I had changed, and that I wasn’t myself without the drugs. I had initially denied this – as any addict would – but at that moment, I came to see the truth: it was not part of my natural cycle to be nauseous to the point of vomiting, or have headaches that split so painfully I couldn’t work.

Recovery Is A Blessing, Healing The Destruction Of Addiction

The hardest thing for an addict to accept is also, ultimately, their salvation. In my cocaine-induced stupor, I hadn’t even consider my wife’s viewpoint. I knew me better than anyone knew me, which made my self-image more accurate than anyone’s view of me. Seeing the damage that was being dealt to my company and family, from this new perspective, allowed me a glimpse of the things that I’d changed. My love for my family and the pride I’d earned from creating a flourishing company were strong enough to consider that, maybe, I’d been part of the problem. I was able to put a replacement in the spot of CEO – an incredible man who I hope becomes head of my company in the future.  He managed the company while I went to detox – a secret I hope none of my employees know – and was happy to give my seat back with everything under control. With my sobriety, it became more and more clear how I’d changed things in my company and my family during my addiction. I began letting go of some of the charismatic employees who couldn’t do jack, and attempting to rehire those that I’d fired for their lack of social skills. Within a month of my detoxification, the company began to thrive again. Stocks went up, employees were happy and productive, and my life at home began to return to the beautiful state it had been in before I’d been introduced to the devil’s powder. I learned that cocaine is capable of changing a man’s strongest virtues, and I consider myself lucky enough to be one of the few who escaped from its grips.