Someone you know is struggling with substance abuse as we speak: one in eight people dealt with drug and alcohol abuse simultaneously in 2017 in the US alone. These devastating numbers point to millions of people who need treatment and help, but they have also opened the eyes of many who themselves were on the verge of turning to opioids believing they would improve their existence.
Too many people reach any drug in order to not feel – not feel alone, abandoned, sad, vulnerable, empty, hurt. But an equal number of people seek comfort in the consumption of drugs to escape the stressful everyday challenges they face at work. However, if you find yourself battling these demons, or if you know someone who is, you should understand exactly how drug use can affect your career and what you need to do in order to find your way out.
The performance paradox
We all strive to be more successful, to build a safe haven for ourselves both in the personal and the professional realm. We fuel our own dreams by trying to find shortcuts and avoid challenges in the aim to reach those goals faster and with less pain and fewer setbacks along the way. However, in the desire to give ourselves the edge we feel we need to move forward, resorting to drug abuse can only lead to negative long-term consequences.
Too many people look for creativity in the external, the likes of drugs and alcohol, falsely believing that we are pushing the limits of our selfhood and enabling the famous pattern of “thinking outside the box”. Alas, a temporary moment of what may seem like creativity can wreak havoc on your body and mind in such stupefying ways that you end up ruining your work performance, increasing absenteeism, thus reducing your productivity.
Healing and hurt
The old adage that it’s not personal, it’s business rarely applies when we’re actually vested in our careers. Caring for what we do, investing emotion and energy and not just time and skill into doing our job makes us vulnerable to criticism, feeling the need to compete, and similar negative states of mind. Not to mention the stress certain positions bring to the table, such as the incredible pain a firefighter feels for losing someone in a collapsing building.
While people often become addicted to a drug precisely because it gives them an “emergency exit” through which they can leave and go numb to avoid stress and pain, there’s another paradox of drug abuse. In order to heal and eliminate addiction, you can experience drug withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to life-threatening and are a typical piece of the recovery puzzle. Ultimately, letting go of addiction will call for the pain that you initially wanted to avoid through drug use. If anything, you will learn that pain heals.
Alienation instead of anesthesia
Let’s go back to the idea of numbness for a moment, as many people struggling with addiction seek precisely that – a lack of any feeling or sensation. Whether you’re dealing with competitive colleagues, you’re starting a new job and you feel unsure if you’re going to fit in, or you’ve been stagnating for too long, reaching for any substance will only provide a temporary distraction for your mind and body. It will, in fact, cause you to change your behavior and alienate your colleagues altogether.
If you are not the one who is dealing with this illness, then you can educate yourself on how to approach and talk about the subject with care, and how you can help someone cope and overcome. That way, while you may not avoid the discomfort and the pain that come out of those conversations, you will prevent severe alienation.
Health and vigor
That feeling of “high” produced by different substances that pushes people into addiction often comes in different forms. Some drugs make you feel invincible, unleash your creative potential, or they help you relax and let go of all troubles that may stifle you at work. These false, synthetic sensations can trick your mind into craving those sensations far more than the feeling of hard-earned health. Deteriorating health translates to more sick days, poor focus, and deteriorating performance at work.
Ultimately, the temporary, short-lived feelings of what appears like vigor can damage your actual, long-term wellbeing.
Even though your career will not be the only or the most relevant aspect of your life that will be negatively affected by drug addiction, if our professional life is one of the reasons we’re resorting to substance abuse, we need to find a way to face our troubles head-on. No matter who you are, and what your career may be, there is always a healthy way in which you can tackle your problems and grow professionally – just make sure you seek the help and support you need.