workaholic and alcoholic

Are Workaholics Alcoholic?

The fast-paced life of a busy executive can clearly seem out of control when viewed by the casual observer. These driven professionals aim for the top with an über-focused fervor, fueled by the passion to succeed at their chosen career. What many do not see, however, is the coping method used to quiet their sky-high stress level: alcohol.

Workaholic and alcoholic—these two terms conjure up a harried, compulsive, type-A individual with a bottle of booze hidden in the desk drawer. Relying on a nip here or there throughout the day can morph into a much more serious problem as tolerance to alcohol’s effects increase, demanding more than a nip to reach the calm state desired. Therein lies the problem; the use of alcohol to induce relaxation due to job stress and anxiety can end up backfiring in a big way.

As the need for higher levels of alcohol consumption incrementally increases, the brain, in turn, is busy altering neurotransmitters and neural pathways in response. This invisible process can creep up on a person, when suddenly, one morning, the first signs of a problem are evident. Maybe it is hand tremors. Maybe it is nausea or profuse sweating. Whichever the withdrawal symptom that initially emerges, this is the warning sign that alcoholism is taking root.

Shared Traits of the Workaholic and Alcoholic

The workaholic and alcoholic tend to exist side by side. The same traits that might cause a person to become addicted to their work parallel similar traits observed in the alcoholic.

Signs of a workaholic might include:

  • Obsessive thoughts about work
  • Feeling compulsively driven to work more and more hours
  • Allowing work to interfere with interpersonal relationships
  • Neglecting family obligations
  • Withdrawing socially as work envelops all waking hours
  • Stress-related health problems develop

Signs of an alcoholic might include:

  • Obsessing about the next drink, having alcohol available, obtaining alcohol
  • Compulsive drinking, unable to control the consumption of alcohol
  • Drinking negatively impacts relationships
  • Neglecting family obligations
  • Withdrawing socially, drinking alone, the world revolves around drinking
  • Alcohol-related health problems develop
  • Want to quit drinking but cannot
  • Experience withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is absent

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps Workaholics and Alcoholics

The reflexive mechanism that drives compulsive behaviors involves both the mind (cognitive) and actions (behavioral). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a mode of psychotherapy that helps individuals who struggle with compulsions, whether they be work or alcohol consumption, learn how to shift the thought-behavior patterns away from self-destructive actions toward productive, healthy actions.

CBT guides the individual to identify the distorted self-messaging that is acted on through subsequent alcohol abuse or the compulsive working. For example, a workaholic may tell him or herself that “unless I put in 18-hour days I will never be promoted,” which results in compulsive work actions. An alcoholic may tell him or herself that “No way can I deal with the pressure of this day on my own,” which results in compulsive alcohol misuse.

By reframing the internal dialogue, CBT can help individuals make fundamental shifts in their thought-behavior patterns. It teaches the person to be mindful of the moment, to pause, and shift the thought toward a positive message. For example, the workaholic may feel a rush of anxiety around career advancement. This feeling is acknowledged, then followed with “I will continue to deliver my best work while remaining cognizant of my own wellness,” which results in self-regulation of work hours. The alcoholic might feel overwhelmed by anxiety in a given situation, and pauses to acknowledge this mental state, followed by the thought “I need to do some deep breathing right now and rein in my thoughts to this present moment.” This results in active efforts to calm the mind using both mindfulness and deep breathing, which will result in decreased cortisol and adrenaline and a calmer state of being without resorting to alcohol.

CBT is a highly effective therapeutic strategy that produces significant results in a short-term format. CBT can be used in both individual and group settings and is a core treatment element in addiction recovery.

Getting Help For Alcoholism

It isn’t easy to accept that one may have developed a problem with alcohol. When those first withdrawal symptoms appear, it can come as a shock. But the fact is that the earlier someone seeks treatment for an alcohol use disorder, the better their recovery outcome. Alcohol addiction will only escalate toward alcohol dependency, which is a chronic, relapsing, and usually fatal disease.

Detox. When approaching treatment for alcoholism it is important to understand that the first step in recovery, detoxification, must be completed under the supervision of a trained detox team. Attempting to detox on one’s own can present serious, even fatal, health risks, including the seizures and coma associated with the delirium tremens (DTs). Alcohol withdrawal symptoms will vary in severity depending on such factors as the length of time abusing alcohol, the level of alcohol consumption, presence of a coexisting mental health disorder like depression or anxiety, a polydrug addiction, and the general health status of the individual.

Withdrawal symptoms for a workaholic and alcoholic might include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Hand tremors, shaking
  • Racing heart
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Mental confusion
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • DTs

Treatment. Alcohol treatment can be obtained in either an outpatient or residential setting and will involve a number of coordinated therapies. Rehab usually includes individual therapy, group therapy, family-focused therapy, medication management when applicable, addiction education, relapse prevention planning, adjunctive therapies, recreational therapy, nutritional counseling, and holistic activities.

Aftercare. Following completion of the rehab program, the individual should access continuing care services to help reinforce sobriety. These include ongoing outpatient therapy, sober living housing, and 12-step or non 12-step meetings.

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Clonazepam Withdrawal

Many Americans struggle with anxiety disorders and insomnia, two conditions that can impair normal daily functioning. The most common treatment for these maladies is a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which includes diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin). Clonazepam is unique among the benzo class due to its rapid onset along with a long half-life. Clonazepam can stay in someone’s system for up to three days.

Clonazepam is usually only prescribed for a short duration, such as two weeks, as the drug has a high risk of dependence and addiction. The lingering effects of the drug, staying in the body for days, can increase the risk of increased tolerance. The sedative effects, as well as mild euphoria, make it a popular medication. It is possible to become physically dependent on clonazepam in just a couple of weeks’ time.

As the individual begins to ramp up dosing to continue to experience the initial effects of the clonazepam, the brain becomes accustomed to the higher levels of the drug in the system. Clonazepam affects the GABA receptors, with is how the nerve cells transmit messages throughout the brain system, slowing brain activity. Over time, neural pathways become altered in response to the impact of dopamine, and the body now requires the drug. This is physical dependence.

Making the decision to get help for a clonazepam dependency or addiction is a difficult one. The individual is keenly aware that clonazepam withdrawal will be an unpleasant experience, keeping many from taking that first step toward recovery. But it should be understood that in a supervised detox environment, clonazepam withdrawal symptoms are closely monitored and interventions will be provided ongoingly.

Effects of Clonazepam Use

It is hard to imagine that the innocent looking little pill could have such devastating effects of some individuals. But, as with all benzos, clonazepam is a powerful sedative that can quickly develop into a dangerous habit, leading to both physical and psychological dependence. Some of the effects that can be experienced from long-term or excessive clonazepam use may include:

  • Impaired cognition
  • Vertigo, dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Mental confusion
  • Sleep problems
  • Short-term memory disruption
  • Numbness or heaviness in arms and legs
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Suicidal ideation

Because benzos are habit forming, increased tolerance to the drug may lead some to double up on dosing or take the drug more often than is prescribed. Of the benzos, clonazepam has a higher risk of overdose due to its longer half-life. Signs of a clonazepam overdose may include:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Clammy skin
  • Profound confusion
  • Delirium
  • Slowed respiratory rate
  • Coma

Breaking Free From a Clonazepam Addiction

It is a dangerous mistake to believe that one can just stop taking these drugs cold turkey. Benzodiazepine addiction is one of the most dangerous to detox from and must be accomplished under the care of a trained detox team. Abruptly stopping the clonazepam use will swiftly bring on intense rebound effects, meaning intense symptoms of anxiety and agitation, convulsions, and potential seizures. For this reason, clonazepam withdrawal must be a gradual process, conducted through a scheduled tapering process of the drug.

Clonazepam withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Shakiness, tremors
  • Shortness of breath, hyperventilation
  • Sweating
  • Muscle spasms, aches, and pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Tinnitus
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Feelings of bodily detachment
  • Delirium
  • Memory problems
  • Grand mal seizures

A detox professional will assign a tapering schedule that will basically trick the body into thinking it is not in withdrawal. This process takes time, but the clonazepam withdrawal symptoms will be greatly diminished. Generally, clonazepam detoxification can take 1-3 weeks, depending on the length of history of the drug abuse and other factors. Lingering psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, or agitation, do occur for a small number of individuals and may last for months.

Rehab for Benzo Addiction

Transitioning from detox over to treatment is an essential aspect of achieving a lasting recovery from the addictive behaviors associated with benzo dependence. Without making fundamental shifts in thoughts and behavior patterns, drug use will likely return as soon as a triggering incident occurs. Rehab teaches clients how to manage these triggers and to rely on alternative responses using the recovery skills taught in therapy.

Addiction treatment can be obtained in either an outpatient or residential environment, with pros and cons to consider for each option. Generally, more entrenched addictions, poly-drug addictions, and dual diagnosis (both drug addiction and a mental health disorder) are best treated in a residential program.

Tips for Managing Stress and Anxiety Without Drugs

In addition to rehab providing psychotherapy, group therapy, 12-step groups, and addiction education, it also utilizes several holistic methods to teach clients how to manage stress without medication. These holistic practices can be accessed at home, and some are accessible anywhere. These practices include:

  • Mindfulness training. This teaches the individual to focus their attention on the moment while also concentrating on breathwork.
  • Yoga. Yoga classes can be accessed at gyms, yoga studios, or online videos and teach individuals the practice of slowly posing the body to help induce relaxation.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise, especially cardio, can help individuals reduce stress levels, improve sleep quality, and enhance the mood while also benefiting physical wellbeing.

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high stress jobs

Work Stress Could Lead to Addiction

There is a reason for the popularity of happy hour, that post-workday stop at a local watering hole for an alcoholic beverage. When the balance between work and life is seriously out of whack there is a higher probability that those who suffer from workplace stress will gravitate toward drugs or alcohol to help modulate the effects of that stress.

It is true that each person has his or her own unique ability to manage stress. Some are hardwired to overreact to stressors on the job, while others let it roll right off their back. Individual temperaments, or personality traits, are those characteristics about ourselves that we can’t really “fix” but rather must learn how to work with or workaround.

For example, someone who is prone to an exaggerated stress response would not be a good fit as a first responder. The daily exposure to stress-inducing situations would just exacerbate that tendency and may set the person up for a future substance use disorder as a quick and easy coping mechanism. Eventually, this stress response, using drugs or alcohol to quell job-related stress, can become habitual and lead to addiction.

What Are the High Stress Jobs?

While a job that one person considers to be too stressful might be perceived as exciting and stimulating to another, there are certain professions that do produce higher levels of stress across the board. Deadline driven jobs, trauma-related jobs, and overly demanding jobs are renowned culprits.

According to CareerCast, a website that specializes in job search and career advice, the most stressful careers include:

  1. Enlisted military personnel
  2. Firefighter
  3. Airline pilots
  4. Police officers
  5. Event coordinators
  6. Public relations executive
  7. Senior corporate executive
  8. Broadcaster
  9. Newspaper reporter
  10. Taxi driver

High stress jobs and addiction often go hand in hand. Individuals who feel overwhelmed by the demands of their chosen occupation may reach for the bottle or a sedative, such as benzo, to relieve the tension held in their bodies after a day’s work. Over time these kinds of high stress jobs will take their toll on both physical and mental health.

Signs That Your Job is Leading You Into Addiction

What may have begun as a harmless beer after work can surprisingly result in full-blown alcoholism for some people. Genetic predisposition to alcoholism, brain chemistry, a co-occurring mood disorder, or a series of other stressful life events may cause some to incrementally increase their alcohol consumption. For individuals who lean on alcohol as a coping tool for work-related stress, alcoholism can stealthily creep in.

The same could be said for the individual who struggles with an anxiety disorder and sought help for it. He or she may have been given a prescription for Xanax or Valium, both benzodiazepines that has a sedative, or depressant effect on the central nervous system. These medications happen to be very psychologically addicting, causing the individual to begin to rely on them any time they feel the slightest bit stressed out. If these folks are in high stress jobs, the medication may be abused to the point that addiction develops.

Signs of drug or alcohol addiction include:

  • Increased tolerance to the effects of the substance, leading to higher consumption
  • Planning one’s day around using drugs or alcohol, prioritizing substance abuse
  • Declining job performance
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Mood swings
  • Obsessed with obtaining the substance
  • Secretive behaviors, such as hiding booze
  • Doctor shopping for pills
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Withdrawing socially
  • Attempts to discontinue or stock using drugs or alcohol fail
  • Experience withdrawal symptoms when the substance is unavailable

Treatment for Drug or Alcohol Addiction

When high stress jobs have resulted in addiction it is time to take a pause and address your mental health needs. Recovery will entail detox and withdrawal, psychotherapy, 12-step programming, medication management, and learning some recovery skills to help ensure sustained sobriety.

In addition to the treatment program benefits, it is helpful to reconsider your career path if returning to it will only trigger the addiction reflex again. Sometimes the rehab experience can lead to a shift in priorities and profound life changes that will greatly benefit the individual in the long run.

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Golf Drug Rehab is an upscale treatment center situated in a beautiful coastal community in South Orange County, California. High stress jobs can take a heavy toll, leading to drug or alcohol dependency and depleted physical health. At Golf Drug Rehab our clinical team is dedicated to partnering with you every step of the way. Our unique rehab features the best in evidence-based treatments in addition to recreational golf therapy, with three spectacular local golf courses to access while in treatment. For more details about the program, connect with Golf Drug Rehab today at (877) 958-5320.