The sports world was rattled yet again this week following the announcement from John Skipper, President of the world famous sports broadcasting network ESPN, of his resignation. Skipper cited his struggles with substance use and addiction as the reason for the statement, and it has brought to mind a few important factors that people often forget about addiction.
Skipper will also be resigning from the position of co-chairman of the Disney Media Networks.
Declaration from ESPN President
In his statement on Monday, Skipper states:
“Today I have resigned from my duties as President of ESPN. I have had a wonderful career at the Walt Disney Company and am grateful for the many opportunities and friendships. I owe a debt to many, but most profoundly Michael Lynton, George Bodenheimer and Bob Iger.
Skipper went on to say,
I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction. I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem,”
According to Skipper, he and the company came to a mutual agreement that it was appropriate for him to resign. He went on to state:
“I come to this public disclosure with embarrassment, trepidation and a feeling of having let others I care about down. As I deal with this issue and what it means to me and my family, I ask for appropriate privacy and a little understanding.”
Skipper has been the ESPN President since 2012, after joining the Disney-owned network back in 1997. According to Bob Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Company, former ESPN President George Bodenheimer will serve as Acting Chair of ESPN for 90 days until a more permanent replacement has been found.
Bob Iger made his own statement supporting Skipper’s decision and showing his respect for Skipper. Bodenheimer also issued a statement, saying:
“I have great respect for John’s leadership, and I applaud the courage he’s demonstrating by addressing his challenge head on. The most important thing right now for John and his family is that he conquers his addiction, and the entire ESPN family is behind him.”
As the transition takes place, many seem to be supporting the ESPN President in his choice to step down and face his addiction. Thus far there haven’t been many specifics as to which substances Skipper struggles with, which is consistent with his request for privacy.
Addiction for Professionals
This is far from the first time we have seen an issue with substance abuse come up in the world of professional sports. Even with coaches and owners, substance abuse is not as uncommon as some might think. Back in October the video of Miami Dolphins offensive line coach Christ Forester snorting lines of white powder surfaced online and created an overnight viral controversy. While the story with John Skipper may be a bit different, they both remind us that even high-profile professionals struggle with substance use and addiction.
Too many people still have this idea that addiction is about moral failures, or lack of willpower, or simply the lack of character and ambition. Yet, time and time again we see stories of incredibly talented, successful, ambitious and influential people struggling with addiction. And it isn’t just rock stars and celebrity actors; we also see it in CEOs and high-ranking business people. We see it in star athletes and in politicians. Every level of success experiences the impact of addiction.
So it is sad to see Skipper say he is embarrassed to have to make this announcement. Even though he is brave to do it, it reminds us also of the stigma even he still might believe.
So we have to support those who are struggling and stop letting the stigma of addiction keep people from getting better by seeking the help that may ultimately save their lives.
The business owner or high earner might not seek help because of how they think people will see them. They might be afraid that being vulnerable will have others question their business. How will this reflect on my work? How will it reflect on my company? Will it destroy my professional reputation to get the help I need?
These are questions no one should ever have to ask.
Functioning Addicts Suffer
Many professionals might even consider themselves to be “functioning addicts,” meaning that even though they are in the grips of addiction physically, mentally and emotionally, they are still able to go on working, going to school or being active at home.
Again, this is a strong example that goes against the stigma people often associate with addiction. Too many people assume that for someone to be truly struggling with addiction, they have to lose their house, job, family, etc. But in reality, people with addiction can be fully-functioning members of society. Addicts can be excellent at their jobs, active in their families or communities, and even take good care of themselves in all respects other than using drugs or alcohol.
However, functioning addicts still suffer greatly. Often this manifests with internal suffering, mental and emotional. They don’t always “hit rock bottom” in the sense of their career, finances or home life. Sometimes it is everything going on inside that causes them the most turmoil.
Sadly, functioning addicts are also less likely to seek the help they need. They will believe that as long as they are working, taking care of the bills and not getting into much trouble, they are still in control. They are more likely to have people around them who do not understand addiction telling them their issues are not that serious. There is no telling how long ESPN President John Skipper was living as a functioning addict. The same goes for many professionals who have been struggling and are afraid that if they admit they need help, they will lose it all.
Addiction does not discriminate. It does not care what your net worth is. It never checks your credit score and it never asks for a resume.
Times are Changing
Luckily, over the past few years, the perception of addiction has begun to experience a cultural shift. Those who struggle with substance use and addiction now have more options for getting help. There are a variety of personalized treatment programs that offer effective and supportive solutions while encouraging people across all demographics to stay informed and seek help.
These days we see more celebrities, athletes, and professionals reaching out, getting help and speaking up about the dangers of addiction. The ESPN President is one of many public figures this year who has spoken up about the problems they have faced and reminded us how important it is to find help.
It is great to be reminded that times are indeed changing and that the stigma of addiction doesn’t have as much power as it once did. While there are still plenty of people across the world who still rely on these old ideas about addiction, much more are learning to better understand addiction and helping support those who need help.
Hopefully, with professionals from such high platforms stepping up to talk about their struggles, we will continue to see more executives, officials and business owners get the help they need.
Addiction is not one-size-fits-all, and neither is recovery. Palm Partners Recovery Center believes in supporting each individual through a personalized recovery plan to help them find an effective path. We want to help people who suffer get back to what matters most. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
By Cheryl Steinberg
There are several common myths and misconceptions about addiction that run amok, and these are passed around by not just those who are lucky enough to be non-addicts but, by addicts, themselves. The problem with this is two-fold: it derails society at large from truly understanding the nature of the disease, which then perpetuates these negative stereotypes, and it deters people who are struggling with addiction from seeking help, because they believe these terrible things to be true about themselves. Here are the 13 most common addiction stereotypes.
#1. The “Dumpster junkie” image
I think it’s quite common for people to hear the word ‘addict’ and then immediately envision a homeless person living in squalor behind a Dumpster or else in some abandoned building. In reality, actually, there are many of us who were ‘functional addicts’ – we had good jobs, homes, cars, married with children, even pillars of our communities.
This stereotype is grossly detrimental to the cause of raising awareness about the disease of addiction and it keeps many people under a heavy veil of denial about their addiction. In my experience as a functioning addict, I really didn’t believe I had a problem because my life didn’t “look” like that of a junkie’s.
#2. Moral failing
If you are an addict, you’re a bad person. At least, that’s how most of society views you. And we tend to view ourselves that way, too. Not realizing that there’s much more to it than that. And, in fact, that it has nothing to do with our morality and who we are as a person. Many of us were desperately trying to cope with unresolved trauma, finding solace in drugs and alcohol. This leads us to the next most common stereotype on the list.
#3. Addiction is a choice
There is still much contention over whether addiction is a disease or a choice, even though the medical community had begun to recognize addiction as a medical condition about half a century ago, there are many prevailing beliefs that alcoholism and drug addiction somehow has to do with the person and their choices rather than their brain chemistry. There are findings that support the theory that those who have addiction are predisposed by certain inherited genes.
#4. People who are addicted to say, heroin, can still drink
Many people, including addicts, misunderstand the nature of addiction, and seem to think that it’s the drug and not the disease. In my experience as someone who works in a treatment setting, I hear many clients sharing that they’ve been to treatment more than one time and that each time, it’s been for a different drug.
So, for example, the first time might have been for alcohol but they return with a “problem with benzos.” The problem is not the substance, itself. The problem lies within the brain. Therefore, someone with the disease of addiction cannot simply be rehabilitated from one substance and go on to use another one “successfully.” Introducing such chemicals into the brain kick off a chain reaction of cravings that lead to obsessions that ultimately lead to a compulsion to drink or use.
#5. Addicts come from broken homes
Although many of us have childhood trauma in our background, it is not a requirement for developing addiction. And in fact, in my experience, many people I meet who are recovery share that their childhood was ‘typical,’ even happy.
#6. Bad influences
Addicts just need to stop hanging around bad people who do bad things. That’s another common addiction stereotype. People want to blame their loved one’s friends or boyfriend or girlfriend for their drug problem. Again, addiction is a disease and therefore, no one can cause you to be an addict. On the other hand, when you get clean, you will have to change the people, places, and things with which you interact because these can derail your recovery.
#7. You can stop if you really wanted to
False. Most people in active addiction eventually reach a breaking point where they want to stop; they really, genuinely want to stop. They just can’t. That’s what having an addiction is like. It’s a prison – you can see through the spaces in the bars to the outside world but, you can’t find the way out there.
#8. You have nothing to contribute to society
I think a lot of people consider recovering addicts to be somehow broken; that they’ll never amount to anything. And this goes for people recovering from addiction, too. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I know so many people in recovery who are out there, doing big things; and basically just killin’ it. We’re talking professionals, business owners, artists, musicians, and so on.
#9. Some drugs are better than, or not as bad as, others
There’s the whole cocaine vs. crack; painkillers vs. heroin mentality where one drug is not as dirty as another. For those who are non-addicts, it’s definitely a look-down-their-noses at you sort of thing. And for addicts in recovery, it’s a beat-myself-up kinda thing.
Here’s a little anecdote: when I got clean, my mom asked me about the drugs I did. She knew I used heroin and that I was an IV user. She sort of leaned in and asked in a hushed voice (even though we were home by ourselves), “But you didn’t do crack, did you?” I answered her honestly, which meant that I told her that yes, yes I did do crack. She looked appalled. To which I replied, “Mom, I SHOT HEROIN…WITH TOILET WATER. Why is crack so much worse than that?” I mean, really, what’s the difference?
Likewise, people want to make an issue over method of use. I don’t know how many times I hear clients say something to the effect of, “I started with painkillers and then started using heroin but, I didn’t shoot…yet, thank god!
When it comes to addiction, though, it really doesn’t matter what you use or how you use it. You have a disease for which there is treatment and help. Recovery is possible. The details don’t matter.
#10. Addicts are violent people
Some addicts are prone to violence when under the influence of drugs and alcohol. That can be a side effect of the substances and their influence on the individual’s brain chemistry. But not all addicts are violent. I wasn’t. I was mouthy and emotional. But never violent.
#11. They have a criminal history and will have regular contact with the police
It’s true, addiction can lead to criminal activity. A lot of people who struggle with addiction also have legal issues or have had legal issues in the past. But that’s not always the case. Especially in the case of the functional addict, who generally never sees the inside of a jail cell. Not all addicts are criminals.
#12. They steal money and belongings from family and friends
Again, many addicts resort to desperate measures in order to support their drug addiction, including stealing from friends and family. Again, this doesn’t apply to all addicts.
#13. Typically, teenagers and young adults
I think one of the common addiction stereotypes out there is that addicts are young people. When, in fact, we’re seeing a growing trend of substance abuse and addiction among the Baby Boomer generation. Addiction is a non-discriminating disease. It affects people across gender, class, age, and ethnic lines.
Did you find any of this surprising? Has it made you consider that maybe you have a problem with drugs or alcohol? Maybe you’re worried about a family member or other loved one. The good news is that help is available. Call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist. We can answer your questions and give you resources. Addiction affects as many as 1 in 3 people. You are not alone.
The term functioning addict is somewhat of a paradox – in that it’s a phrase that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth. And what I mean by that is this: being a functional addict is possible in that you can seemingly have your sh*t together while behind the scenes is a totally different story – one of substance abuse, lying, manipulation, stealing, and overall desperation. In my active addiction, I had a good job, a stable residence, a car, and friends. On the outside, everything seemed peaches and cream but, emotionally, I was fast-approaching my breaking point. As I am coming up on my two years being clean and sober, looking back, I’ve realized these 11 things I learned as a functioning heroin addict.
#1. That everyone’s bottom looks different
When you think of a heroin addict who’s finally ready to get help, you probably picture a homeless, dirty, street urchin with festering sores and raggedy clothes. Not so for this former functional heroin addict. When I finally sought treatment, I still had a closet full of business professional clothes, my own car, a steady job, and a nice place to live. Other than having become way too thin, my outward appearance was pretty “normal” – no sores or really visible track marks (even though I was an IV user).
#2. That you don’t need to hit a financial bottom to feel ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired’
Again, I still had a lot going for me by the time I went to rehab. I didn’t have many of the negative consequences that other heroin addicts accumulate by the time they finally submit to treatment. For example, besides not being homeless and still having my car and job, I didn’t have any legal consequences such as pending charges nor had I ever done any jail time – although I certainly had committed crimes in my active addiction in order to support my habit. I had hit an emotional bottom, though. I felt completely broken inside and just wanted to die.
#3. That my life was unmanageable
Although from the outside, my life looked pretty good and wholly typical, it was, in reality, the complete opposite of that. I was banging dope in the bathroom at work, making drug deals on premises, staying out all hours getting and using drugs with questionable people, waking up super early to go cop and use before work – basically running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
#4. That being a functioning heroin addict made working so much harder
For those of you reading this that are or have been in active addiction, you know what it’s like to feed your drug habit. As they say, it’s a fulltime job in and of itself. So imagine actually having a fulltime (read: legit) job as well as the need to find, get, and use drugs on a daily basis. It’s taxing.
#5. That trying to solve my problem with the same thinking is insane
Another one of the things I learned as a functioning heroin addict is that trying to do it my way just doesn’t work. In the decade or so I spent using heroin and other drugs – there were many – I tried the “geographic solution” – moving from Maryland to Florida to Pittsburgh and then back to Florida; psychiatry, acupuncture, Suboxone maintenance, and a methadone clinic. None of these half-witted “solutions” worked; it took me doing the whole deal: inpatient treatment and working a program of recovery – in order to begin living a healthy, happy, normal life.
#6. That being dope sick and having to function at work is the worstttt
If there is such a thing as Hell, I imagine it would involve something like being dope sick and having to perform at a job, all while putting on a happy face. I will never forget that feeling. I thank my lucky stars that I never have to live like that again.
#7. That my coworkers probably suspected all along
In fact, I know they did, as I am still friends with some of them and they just so happen to be in recovery, too, because we’ve spoken about it before. They’ve told me that they suspected or even knew that I had a problem.
#8. That when the “outside” looks good people leave you alone
Other than a few of our regular customers mentioning my weight loss, no one came out and said anything to me about their concerns. They might have suspected that something was up but couldn’t quite put their finger on it. This is probably because the outside seemed so together when in reality I was falling apart.
#9. That I could ‘pass’ for a normal person
Some people were genuinely surprised when I told them later on that I went to rehab because, I didn’t “look like an addict.” Still today, when I tell people I’m in recovery, after which they always ask what my DOC was, and when I tell them I was a heroin addict, they usually say that they’d never have guessed it.
#10. The art of manipulation
Another thing I learned from being a functioning heroin addict was the art of manipulating others. For example, getting my doctors to prescribe me narcotics by asking in just the right way, that is, pretending I didn’t really know what I was talking about and feigning concern about having to take such a drug for my “problem.” Another example is the time I convinced my pharmacist to sell me a 100 count box of syringes despite not having a prescription for insulin – a requirement by most, if not all pharmacies when attempting to buy needles.
#11. The art of bait and switch
Along with manipulating professionals, there was the constant manipulation of loved ones. This involved dodging their questions – or them altogether – and learning ways to change the subject in a non-obvious way. Also involved was the art of the lie by omission and coming up with unique ways to ask for money.
Even if your life still seems manageable, there’s a better way. If you’re struggling with substance abuse or addiction, you can still turn it around and live a healthy, happy, and FREE life. Call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today. We are available around the clock to answer your questions. You are not alone.
There’s your ‘typical’ drug addict, the type that’s usually referred to as “junkie,” – you know, the homeless person getting high on the streets, possibly prostituting themselves (male and female) – and then there’s the ‘functional addict.’ This type of drug addict is seemingly “normal.” They have their life together, for the most part. They hold a steady job, have a place to live, have a car…all the typical things that describe a normal, functioning member of society. But the functional addict is really someone who is just good at ‘passing’ for something they’re not. As someone who spent her active addiction as a functional addict, I’m going to share with you some tell-tale signs of someone who’s struggling with substance abuse and addiction: someone who may be merely passing for doing OK.
Here it is: Living a Double Life: How to Spot a Functional Addict
How to Spot a Functional Addict: Physical Signs
Now, the functional addict in your life could be someone as close as a loved one or it might be someone you see on a regular basis, such as a coworker, or even your boss. This first way to spot a functional addict is to look for some obvious and not-so-obvious physical indications, such as changes in their appearance.
They say the eyes are the windows to the soul and the functional addict, depending on what they are using, will have certain ‘dead giveaways’ like pinned (or very small) pupils if they are using opiates, such as heroin or prescription painkillers. Or, their eyes might be bloodshot on a daily basis – a possible sign of alcohol abuse or marijuana abuse. Their eyelids might also be quite heavy-looking, as if they are constantly tired. Lastly, the functional addict’s eyes might appear ‘glassy,’ which means that they look like kind of glazed over. They also might seem to have difficulty focusing their eyes.
Another tell-tale physical sign of someone who is living a double life as a functional addict is extreme and rapid weight loss or weight gain, again depending on the substance or substances they are abusing. In my experience as a functioning addict, it was rapid weight loss because I was using opiates (heroin and painkillers), amphetamines (Dexedrine) and stimulants (cocaine and crack). I was in a job that had me in direct contact with the public – I guess you could call it a customer service position. There came a point when my dwindling figure was so noticeable that I was getting a lot of comments from our business’s regular customers regarding my weight. My go-to excuse was that I was “just under a lot of stress lately.” And the truth of the matter was that I really was under a lot of stress, from leading a double life and also with struggling with the misery and brokenness I was feeling on the inside.
Lastly in the physical signs category is any detectable odor such as that of alcohol or else strong mouthwash or mints. A person who is secretly abusing alcohol will either smell like alcohol or these personal hygiene products as a way to mask the odor of the alcohol. And contrary to a common belief out there, vodka does smell. Many people struggling with alcoholism and who are trying to hide it think that vodka is a ‘safe’ poison drink of choice when it comes to hiding their addiction but it really isn’t.
How to Spot a Functional Addict: Behavioral
This one’s a little trickier than the last category but, someone who is abusing drugs will more than likely be demonstrating behavioral signs of their addiction, too. First, there’s the habitual tardiness and absences – this doesn’t always apply to the functional addict, however. The absences might be due to frequent illness (read: hangovers or being dope sick) or else multiple doctors’ appointments (known as doctor-shopping).
Also, the functional addict might have multiple pill bottles and always seem to be dipping into their purse or locker at work – whatever the case may be – to take their “medicine.” Of course, be careful with this as the person might actually have legitimate health issues and concerns that require the use of medications as well as frequent doctor’s visits in order to monitor whatever condition they have.
Other behaviors of a tell-tale functional addict are that they act secretive, always stealing away for something, disappearing, acting aloof, or being vague about details. The functional addict might also have an unusual or inappropriate wardrobe, for example, they always wear long sleeves, even in the summer. This could be an indication that they are hiding track marks.
How to Spot a Functional Addict: Mood
Again, this category calls for discretion when trying to weed out the functional addict in your life. That’s because someone might have a legitimate mood disorder such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. But, if someone close to you suddenly has a personality shift, and you already suspect drug use, it’s more than possible that this person is an addict in hiding. They might seem erratic, moody, emotional, and react in unexpected ways. Also, if you always feel like you have to walk on eggshells in their presence, this can be an indication of an emotional and psychological consequence they are experiencing as a result of their substance abuse.
This is because of the profound effect that drugs have on the chemistry of the brain. This impact is so dramatic, in fact, that the medical community’s stance on a mental health diagnosis made within 2 years of last drug use could be inaccurate. Considering that bit of information, you can see how someone who is hiding their addiction would emote differently than how they used to.
If you are struggling with an addiction but don’t really realize it because you seem to be doing fine on a daily basis, check in with yourself. Do you feel like you have to use a substance first thing when you wake up or throughout the day just so you can function and feel relatively normal? Are you feeling tired and fed up of this regimen? Or do you know someone who seems to fit the bill of a functional addict? If you said ‘yes’ to any of these and are unsure of what to do next, you can call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 around the clock to speak with an Addiction Specialist who can answer your questions about addiction and what to do next. Remember: you are not alone and help is available. Call today.
Is it possible to be sober and still have fun? I always thought that people who quit drinking and using drugs became pretty boring, irritable and even angry. People who don’t drink seem to spend all their time complaining about how they can’t drink any more. Will my life become boring? Will I become boring?
The simple answer is, you probably will become more boring, if that means you will no longer experience the ups and downs of self-hating misery that you get with addictive boozing. Life for alcoholics and addicts tends to be punctuated with agonizing catastrophes, messes that need to be cleaned up, regretful phone calls, and embarrassing pleas for forgiveness – not to mention the eventual more serious consequences: run-ins with the law or even causing physical harm or death due to your alcohol- and drug-use. Alcoholics and addicts know what it’s like to wake up and want to put a bullet in their brain. At least this was my experience.
That being said, sober life may lack the drama it used to have, but it’s not actually boring. You’re just experiencing it in a new and novel way. Even though I was what some call a “functioning addict” – having a good job, my own car, and a nice place to live – I definitely wasn’t going out and having a good time while in my active addiction. In fact, I was way more boring when I was using. I hardly went out and when I did it was to go cop drugs.
Nowadays, I am having a blast in sobriety. I have a very active social life and am involved in a lot of service work. I spend quality time with family and friends, whereas before, I would avoid my loved ones at all costs because of the guilt and shame I was experiencing.
Here are some tips on sober “partying:”
Make it a family event – whenever you include kids and family, it’s a lot easier to avoid supplying alcohol.
Do lunch – people don’t freak out as much if there is no alcohol at a lunch event, and often they don’t even expect any.
Allow people to go BYO – if I’m having people over for dinner and they say, “What can I bring?” I usually say that if you want to drink alcohol, bring your own because I don’t serve it myself. Occasionally people do bring some, and I don’t mind.
Have music be the focus, rather than alcohol – music is the great intoxicator and mood-lifter. I get a buzz from a good song by one of my favorite artists and even more euphoric when I get to share that with others. It can really help make a party feel like a party to have a good soundtrack or live music.
Find sober friends – there are a lot more sober people out there than you think, and it’s great when you find each other.
Go out to eat – If you have friends that really like to drink, and you don’t feel like dealing with it, just meet them at a restaurant. They can drink as much as they like and you don’t have to worry about cooking or doing dishes. Double bonus.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.