For many executive professionals, self-medicating is an everyday part of life. Trouble sleeping as budgets and targets race through your head? Then take a sleeping pill to help you drift off. Tough client meeting didn’t go as well as you’d hoped? Take the edge off with a few drinks after work and relax.
These may seem like perfectly normal reactions to stressful situations. And there are certainly lots of those in professional life. Many executive professionals are highly successful people who expect a great deal of themselves. Perfection and control are simply part of working life, alongside juggling financial, family and relationship needs.

Yet managing stress through self-medication can lead to a wealth of problems including addiction. As we normalise these behaviours, we forget how essentially unhealthy they are. If your role is high-powered, you’ve probably used stress positively in the past to achieve your position. But although adrenaline can help you react quickly and effectively, eventually pressure can become exhausting. That’s why it’s important to step back and consider how much you’re self-medicating to get through the day.

Self-medicating signs and symptoms

If you drink alcohol or use drugs (including prescription medication) to control difficult feelings, you could be self-medicating too regularly. These feelings could include stress, anxiety, anger and sadness. There is no definitive list, but as an executive professional, you’re likely to experience high stress levels that put you more at risk.

You may feel anxious if it’s not possible to self-medicate at a particular time. Ever feel that you really need that drink, line of cocaine or Diazepam right now? It could be that you’re experiencing an uncomfortable emotion or are in a difficult situation that you usually deal with through alcohol or drugs. Feeling panicky, irritable or restless could indicate that self-medicating is leading to addiction.

If your mood feels increasingly negative and health, social and financial problems become more frequent – then it’s time to get help and support. Perhaps people close to you have already made the suggestion but thinking about executive rehabilitation is a good first step to recovery. It can be very tempting to deny there’s a problem and live as a functioning addict. But it’s important to remember that you are not alone and that the right recovery programme could help you turn a corner.

What’s different about an executive rehabilitation programme?

A rehabilitation programme held at a private recovery centre enables executive professionals to focus on recovery alone. These rehabilitation centres have the resources and expertise in place to treat disorders as complex as self-medicating and executive burnout effectively.

As self-medication is primarily used to manage challenging emotions and issues, it’s important to build new coping mechanisms to thrive both professionally and personally. Detox is an all-important first step in executive rehabilitation, but it really is just the beginning. Rehabilitation and recovery are based on understanding your motivation to self-medicate and how you can progress to living without drugs or alcohol. Executive rehabilitation programmes will also look at life beyond rehab and the recovery centre. How will you cope working back in the City of London where cocaine is easy to obtain? What will you do when after-work drinks are suggested?

Executive rehabilitation programmes can also be more flexible as they are generally tailored to the individual and their specific needs. It’s true that drug and alcohol addiction cannot be addressed overnight – they are serious addictions that demand hard-working solutions. But many executive recovery centres will be able to work with you to devise a programme that can fit with professional commitments.

At Step One Recovery, we’re highly experienced in supporting executive professionals through detox and the various stages of recovery. We understand that professionals often face unique pressures and problems. That’s why none of our recovery programmes are the same – we create each programme for each of our individual clients. Our aim is to treat you holistically so you’re ready to take on life’s challenges in a new healthy way.