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
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
The vast majority of people struggling with addiction are actually employed. In fact, too many people actually never try to get help for their addiction because they think that having a job means they are not that far gone. However, being a ‘functioning addict’ does not make you any less addicted. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) actually noted some time ago that 76% of people with substance abuse problems are employed. Unfortunately, too many of them also avoid getting treatment because they fear doing so could actually hurt their careers.
What many may not realize is how things like the Americans with Disabilities Act helps addicts with treatment by protecting them from discrimination.
What Is the Americans with Disabilities Act?
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, commonly referred to as the ADA, is a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination based on disability. It protects individuals with disabilities and guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in:
- Public accommodations
- State and local government services
People with disabilities deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, and the ADA is designed to ensure they have them.
One thing that makes the ADA so important is that it requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations.
How Does ADA Define Disability?
To be clear, employees undergoing treatment for drug or alcohol addiction have always been covered under the ADA. The ADA defines a disability as:
A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a history of having such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was charged with interpreting the 1990 law, and ended up EEOC developing regulations limiting an individual’s impairment to one that “severely or significantly restricts” a major life activity.
Later on the ADAAA directed the EEOC to amend this regulation and replace “severely or significantly” with “substantially limits”.
The ADA added a few extra As around 18 years later.
In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law and became effective on January 1, 2009. The implementation of the ADAAA made a number of significant changes to the definition of disability. The ADAAA also added to the ADA examples of “major life activities” including, but not limited to:
- Caring for oneself
- Performing manual tasks
They also included the operation of several specified major bodily functions. If we look at all of these criteria, it is not that surprising that alcoholism and drug addiction would qualify.
How Does Americans with Disabilities Act Help Addicts?
Addiction stigma is one of the hardest hurdles for most people to have to overcome when trying to find addiction treatment. A lot of people never even seek out the help because they are afraid their job or career would be jeopardized. But the ADA helps alcoholics and addicts by protecting them.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Technical Assistance Manual: Title I of the ADA,
“A person who currently uses alcohol is not automatically denied protection simply because of the alcohol use. An alcoholic is a person with a disability under the ADA and may be entitled to consideration of accommodation, if s/he is qualified to perform the essential functions of a job. However, an employer may discipline, discharge or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct to the extent that s/he is not ‘qualified.’ ”
While ADA regulations may permit allowances for alcoholism, illegal drug use is never protected. However, addicts who are recovering are protected under the ADA.
According to the EEOC’s manual:
“Persons addicted to drugs, but who are no longer using drugs illegally and are receiving treatment for drug addiction or who have been rehabilitated successfully, are protected by the ADA from discrimination on the basis of past drug addiction.”
So if you were to take a drug test and it shows that you are using an illicit substance you disqualify yourself from ADA protections.
How it Helps with Treatment
Fear of losing a job or sabotaging your financial future is a huge obstacle for most people who desperately need addiction treatment but are afraid to ask for help. Too many people think they will be black-listed or discriminated against for their struggles with drugs or alcohol. Breaking the stigma is essential to helping more people recover.
The ADA helps by treating alcoholics and addicts like people suffering from an illness or disability instead of punishing them. It protects your right to get help, as long as you don’t violate the policies of your profession. Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily protect people actively using drugs or alcohol. You can still face the consequences that come with it despite the ADA protections.
If you are attending a rehabilitation program, or you have successfully completed a program of rehabilitation, you are covered under the ADA. To find out more about these and other protections, look into the opportunities you are eligible for with the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) offered through your company.
Discrimination is always wrong, and discrimination against people recovering from substance use disorder is no different. People who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction need to be supported, especially when it comes to maintaining the aspects of their life that help them build a future. Know your rights and be aware of the protections in place so that you don’t put it off until it is too late. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Being privileged enough to be able to go to a substance abuse treatment center is something a lot of people take for granted. If you are lucky enough to have an opportunity to go to treatment, you should definitely look into substance abuse treatment in Lexington, MA.
Substance Abuse Treatment in Lexington, MA: Detoxing your body
To go into substance abuse treatment in Lexington, MA, you first have to fully detox your body. Going through the physical withdrawals once you stop using drugs and alcohol can be tough but that’s why it’s a good idea to go to a medical detox center and not detox at home by yourself. With certain substances, like alcohol and benzodiazepines, the withdrawals can actually be deadly so you want to make sure you are with medical professionals. At a detoxification center, they will drug test you and get you started on a weaning down process so that your detox is more bearable and easier to go through. The purpose is to eventually take you off all medication and make sure you aren’t physically ill anymore.
Substance Abuse Treatment in Lexington, MA: Treatment process
After the drugs and alcohol are out of your system, you can go into substance abuse treatment in Lexington, MA and work on the mental part of the disease of addiction and get your mind healthy. Going to therapy sessions (individual or group), doing fun sober activities, attending 12-step meetings and learning how to live life on life’s terms is what you learn in rehab. The transition from living a life based on drugs and alcohol to being a normal functioning human being can be difficult.
Substance Abuse Treatment in Lexington, MA: IOP and Halfway House
The next step is to move onto the phase of treatment which is referred to as intensive outpatient. In outpatient treatment, you don’t live at the treatment center but you attend therapy sessions a few times a week and are still drug tested. You also usually are advised to live in a halfway house during this period of time. In a halfway house they also drug test you, want you to have a job, pay your rent on time, do chores, get a sponsor, go to meetings and work a program of recovery.
Substance Abuse Treatment in Lexington, MA: Meetings
In halfway you are able to bond with other people in recovery but a good majority of the support and connections happen when you go to 12-step meetings. Here you will get a sponsor and start working a program and changing your life. It’s amazing how much one person can change through a 12-step fellowship; I remember my mom not even recognizing me and feeling like I was a totally different person because I had changed so much – for the better. It’s a wonderful feeling to be doing good things with your life and wanting to be a better person; and going to meetings and working your steps will be a big part of that. Substance abuse treatment in Lexington, MA really encourages working a solid program of recovery. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.
Is addiction a choice or is it an excuse?
Many scientists say addicts have literally lost control, and that they suffer from a disease.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse calls drug addiction a “disease that will waste your brain.” This is our government’s official policy. And government-funded researchers, like Stephen Dewey of Brookhaven National Labs, tend to agree.
They say their studies of addiction in monkeys and rats show that addiction is a brain disease. “Addiction is a disease that’s characterized by a loss of control,” says Dewey. Dewey takes his message to schools, showing kids brain scans that he says prove his point. He tells students that addiction causes chemical changes that hijack your brain.
Is Addiction a Matter of Genetic Destiny?
Dewey and other researchers say our genes predispose some of us to addiction and loss of control. Researchers at Harvard University believe they may have found one of those genes in the zebrafish. When researcher Tristan Darland put cocaine on a pad and stuck it on one side of a fish tank, fish liked the feeling they got so much that they hung around the area, even after the cocaine was removed. Then Darland bred a family of fish that had one gene altered. These fish resisted the lure of the cocaine. Darland says this shows that addiction is largely genetic. “These fish don’t know anything about peer pressure. They either respond or they don’t respond to the drug,” he says.
And when a study of people’s brains was conducted in which addicts watched videos of people getting high on crack, called “craving videos,” and then videos of people engaged in hard-core sex, the brain scans show the addicts get more excited by the craving videos. The drugs become more powerful than sex — because addiction’s a disease that changes your brain, says Dewey. I asked Dewey if he was suggesting that drug users don’t have free will. “That’s correct,” he said. “They actually lose their free will. It becomes so overwhelming.”
Where is the Accountability and Power?
Many others say that the argument that addiction is a brain disease is not only inaccurate but harmful. It removes the possibility of getting out from under the “disease” of addiction – carrying the burden of being an addict for the rest of your life. They say this is harmful because it leads people to believe that there is no hope for them and leaves them vulnerable to what they call the “treatment trap.” Some experts say the treatment industry is taking advantage of people in desperate situations. It conveys to people that they can never get over an addiction on their own and that they have to buy something in order to get over an addiction.
I tend to see the validity of both sides of this argument. I mean, if there is actual scientific evidence of brain difference among addicts and non-addicts, who can argue with that? As someone in recovery from poly-substance abuse and addiction, I know that I tried everything to get clean: moving out of state, methadone clinic, Suboxone, psychiatry, acupuncture, moving again – all this to no avail. I couldn’t stop without professional help in the form of specifically-designed addiction treatment. Today, with a little over a year clean and sober, I do feel that I have the willpower to not pick up again. I have a choice. I am certain that, if I was to pick up drink or a drug, that my choice would be removed once the phenomenon of craving and obsession is reignited.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.