I understand high-functioning addicts very well. Maybe because I am one… at least that’s what I used to be until I found freedom. At this time of writing, I have 20 years of continuous sober recovery from my primary addictions to drugs. I also have over 10 years of professional experience supporting other high-functioning addicts in finding freedom from addiction. Most articles about high-functioning addiction are from expensive rehab facilities, pointing out the obvious. This isn’t another one of them! This article is not about what you want, but it is about what you need! It won’t be comfortable reading, but it might bring a crucial insight that shifts the trajectory of your life for the better. If this sounds like something worthwhile, read on!

The 5 things you need to do if you are a High-Functioning Addict are…

Stop hoping for change!

If you are like most high-functioning people, you probably get the results you want. You may have everything you want in life. If problems arise, you deal with them. You set goals and achieve them. And there’s that one thing that, no matter what you do, cannot be shaken off. Addiction is your unwanted companion and one of the few aspects of your life that you struggle to control. Your best strategies have brought only limited success, and you have begun to hope for change because hope is all you have left!

Hope won’t solve this problem! I have sat with Doctors, Lawyers, Journalists, Celebrities, Athletes, and many successful self-made people. Most of them come to me as a last resort! Some of them are facing the loss of everything they have worked so hard for. They feel like the final rug is being pulled from under their feet when I tell them to stop hoping for change!

The problem with hope is that its part of the addiction. Hopium = addiction to false hope. When this addiction is surrendered, change is possible, but it can’t be found in that old system for living your life. Even if that system has delivered some great things, it has proven inadequate for dealing with addiction. Addiction is often a symptom of the deeper irresolutions that are so hard for high-functioning people to see within themselves. For change to happen, these deeper issues must be resolved, and this requires a new system. Stop hoping for your life to change and create a new system that makes change possible!

If you don’t know how to do this, find someone who does and hire their help!

Take a fall!

If you are like many high-functioning addicts, you are probably popular and well thought of within your family, peer group, and broader communities. Most people will have no idea about your addictive behaviours. Some may have you up on a pedestal because of who they think you are. You may even find yourself buying into their projections, and also believing them over your own fragmented experience. This is denial, and it is part of the duel identity in which addiction thrives.

When in denial of addictive behaviour, it is easy to adopt the dangerous idea that it is better to die on the pedestal than suffer the humiliation of being knocked off it. Better to die on that high horse than be seen to take a fall. We only need to look at the way celebrities are built up, to be shot down when their secret lives are exposed. We don’t want to end up like Tiger Woods, beaten down, humiliated, dragged through the media mud.

In some way, though, you are going to need to take a fall. Even if it’s just a fall from your own delusional clinging to hope, or buying into the way others see you. You don’t have to wait until you’re being exposed. You don’t have to take a humiliating fall. You can fall like a stuntman. A stuntman doesn’t hurt himself when he falls, because he knows how to fall. You don’t have to be knocked off your pedestal, you can begin climbing down right now with humility rather than humiliation.

If you don’t know how to do this, find someone who can guide you in the process.

Know who you are!

You are the most essential part of your life! You fulfil the role you do because of being who and what you are. The role you have in this life, whatever form that takes, is just a role! It’s not who you are! High-functioning people tend to become identified with their roles. They fear themselves to be nothing without them. Who will I be when I am no longer the CEO, Chairman, or Director?

Life as a high-functioning addict can have such a crazy momentum to it. Are you playing your role? Or is your role, playing you? Are you using alcohol, sex, drugs, and gambling? Or are these things using you? Our roles and addictions become inter-linked in a compulsive chain. If just one link is broken, then that would be the end of everything… at least that’s the way it seems. It’s not only about who I will be without my role but who will I be without my addiction? It’s time to take a stand in the face of this crazy momentum, to stop, and know who you really are!

To know who we are, we need to connect with our abiding reality beneath the crazy momentum of the high-functioning addict life. The fear is that who we are is bad, ugly, unloveable, and unacceptable. In reality, we are none of those things. In the reality of our true nature, we are the exact opposite! This fear is just a Paper Tiger! It’s part of the perfect system for keeping high functioning addiction in place! It’s time to stop buying into such fears so that you can slow down and know yourself for who you really are.

If you don’t know how to do this, find a therapist who can help you move beyond your fears.

Be willing to change everything!

Most of us fear change as much as we want and need it. We want to change, but don’t want to suffer the inconvenience of it. We want to change, but not feel uncomfortable as a result. We want to change, but don’t want to be judged by others. We want to change, but don’t want to give up the pleasurable aspects of our habits and addictions. In many ways, we want to change without changing!

Like it or not, you are going to have to change a few things in your life, and this won’t be comfortable. Upgrading your social/peer group is an excellent place to start. Reducing the impact of work-related-stress is another. You will probably need to set some healthy boundaries and examine your eating and sleeping habits. You may need to look at the type of media you are consuming, and the thought patterns that may have been maintaining your old way of life.

This may sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. The good news is that you probably won’t have to change everything. Like most people, some parts of your system will be working very well, and others won’t be. Often it’s the small changes that make the most significant differences. The introduction of a few simple disciplines can initiate the kind of gradual, incremental change that is more ecological within the demands of life in the modern world.

If you don’t know how to begin, find a coach who can help you take the first steps.

Remember WHY you are on this Journey!

The true path that we are here to walk is usually based upon a few very simple values. These values are your WHY. This WHY is what gets you out of bed in the morning. It drives you to keep going towards your goals. I am a firm believer that we should be able to speak the essence of our personal WHY in just a few simple words. Simple is best!

Your WHY isn’t what you do. Your WHY is why you do what you do. What’s your WHY?

Your WHY is deeper than providing a roof overhead and putting food on the table. It’s deeper than having a big bank balance, high-end post/zip code, and designer wardrobe. Your WHY is what makes you feel alive, thriving, and connected! If you don’t know what I am talking about, it’s probably because you have lost touch with your WHY!

As you ask the question, ‘What’s my WHY?’, you may have the realisation that you don’t know and never have known what it is. Maybe you’ve just drifted along on the expectations of others. Perhaps you’ve based your sense of self on things that are not in alignment with what really matters to you deep down. Wherever you find yourself, you now have an opportunity to know your WHY… and that is an excellent thing indeed! Too many of us live life in quiet desperation, going through the motions until a day comes when we realise life has slipped through our fingers and it is too late to change anything. Many of us die with our true life unlived, our real song unsung, our innate gifts ungiven. You don’t have to be one of them. It’s time to know your WHY.

If you don’t know how to do this, find someone who can guide you into knowing your WHY.