Professional success doesn’t make somebody exempt from having substance abuse problems. From our 45 years of working with professionals with addictions, we find that this statement might not be as obvious as it seems.
Some of our most beloved treatment groups that are consistently well attended by current clients at MARR and alumni are our Atlanta Recovering Professionals (ARP) Groups. In addition to individual therapy, mirror imaging, the other Phase I and II groups, the ARP groups are required for our clients in our Recovering Professionals Program.
Meeting twice a week as a large group and then again in smaller groups, these gatherings focus on the concerns unique to professionals in the early stages of recovery.
Many of these clients find the group so essential for their recovery that they consistently return to participate as volunteers, in some cases for decades after finishing treatment.
Why groups specifically for professionals?
As mentioned at the outset, a successful career doesn’t preclude a person from substance abuse difficulties. In fact, it can make addiction or alcoholism more difficult for a person to recognize in some cases.
Denial of addiction is common across the board, regardless of the individual’s work situation or vocation. But people who have managed to maintain careers while also dealing with worsening substance abuse issues often develop a more profound sense of denial about their addiction.
To preserve a career that they have worked hard to achieve, professionals often become experts at hiding their addictions, both from others and themselves. When you add all the exterior signs of outward success to this naturally occurring denial, it becomes even more challenging to see how one’s substance use is a problem. Many professionals with substance use disorder appear as if they have their lives pretty well put together from the outside.
Unfortunately, what this logic overlooks is the fact that substance use disorder is a progressive disease. Typically only after professionals start suffering from more visible and difficult-to-hide consequences do they seek treatment. But in such cases, the addiction has likely been progressing for years, or even decades, under the surface.
Whether they realize it or not, by the time our professional clients end up at MARR, their alcoholism or drug addiction has likely affected every aspect of their lives in significant ways. Many of these effects have managed to go unnoticed because their career has helped to keep up appearances that all is well.
Other professionals who are further along in recovery, who have worked through similar forms of denial, can help newer clients see how their disease has likely been affecting them in ways they hadn’t realized. They can share from their own experience how career success may have covered up red flags that were present for a long time.
Also, many times it is the ARP groups that relieve deeply held shame. In cases when a significant incident like the intervention of an employer or a licensing board mandates treatment, open and honest sharing from others who have dealt with similar stresses provides an invaluable source of hope to professionals in early recovery. A client may discover in these groups that she is not the only dentist to have diverted medication—a secret she thought she would never be able to talk to anybody about. Or a teacher may meet other people who drank before leaving for work in the morning.
Connections in this group also help the clients find hope that they can return to their careers. Many clients who check into treatment assume that they will never work in their field again. However, this is hardly ever the case for those who stay in recovery and comply with their licensing or other oversight boards. The ARP groups provide clients in early recovery with living examples of people who have been in their situation and have returned to work.
ARP groups are a unique and valuable source of insight, relief, hope, and guidance for men and women in a crisis point in their lives and careers. These sources of strength naturally emerge from a group of peers who have confronted circumstances and persevered to find meaning and connection in the very things about themselves they thought they never could face. And the alumni volunteers who return for the group feel blessed and grateful that their past pain can be of use to those new in the recovery process.
These professionals form a community of mutual aid that helps to remind all parties involved of the possibility of recovery, in which they are no longer defined by their career but can use their professional background and skills to help and connect with others.
Our Clinical Assessment Team is available for a confidential and free conversation about the next steps you can take to get help for yourself and your loved ones. Call us at (678) 736-8694, or you can reach out via the chat box in the lower right-hand corner of our website.