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Dysfunction at the Top: How Addiction Affects the Powerful

By: Martin Brenner

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So many people wrongly assume that addiction is a problem that plagues the weak and the poor. Addiction does not leave anyone out. In fact, the rich and the powerful have their fair share of problems with addiction. They just have more resources to conceal and deal with the problems.

Whether it's drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or anger, addiction is as real for the homeless man living on the street as it is for the high school student, a nurse at your local hospital and a top executive or celebrity. People from all walks of life are insecure about the times we're living in. The constant news of a worsening economy, lost jobs, the foreclosure crisis and war weighs heavy on everyone's minds.

The way we choose to deal with our pain, anxiety and anger can make or break us. Engaging in excessive, risky behaviors can escalate beyond our control quickly, especially when it comes to drinking alcohol and doing drugs, including opiates like heroin and OxyContin and benzodiazepines like Valium, Xanax and Klonopin. Using external sources to cope with our pain almost always leads to more trouble. Taking out our anger on others can lead to instances of escalating domestic violence. Anger issues and resulting episodes of domestic abuse so often run hand-in-hand.

Naming Names: Notable Examples of Addiction Among the Rich and Powerful

Take for example William Bennett, who for more than 20 years has been a government official, speaker, author, President Ronald Reagan's education secretary and a drug czar under George W. Bush. Bennett has spent the good part of his career extolling the virtues of moral responsibility. His admission of a gambling problem is just one example that the disease of addiction affects the wealthy and powerful in addition to individuals and families.

In the last few years, the stories of drug- and sex-addicted politicians have dominated headlines. Disgraced New York Governor Elliot Spitzer was involved in high-end prostitution. Evangelist Ted Haggard, who spoke vehemently about the evils of homosexuality, was embroiled in a gay sex scandal. President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty believe President Bill Clinton is a sex addict. Betty Ford pioneered an addiction treatment program after her own battle with drugs and alcohol.

Denial and Hypocrisy Are At the Core of Addiction

Addiction is a national scourge in America, with an enormous cost to society. Many people, including the rich and powerful, believe their problems can be solved by abstaining from the behavior. Such denial, coupled with compulsive behaviors, is at the very core of addiction. Unless treated with access to on-going recovery support, these types of addicts may stop their behaviors for a period of time to avoid scrutiny and suspicion. The cycle of addiction shows, however, that the behavior will likely manifest in some way eventually.

The underlying issues and destructive tendencies that drive an addiction need to be treated. If they're not, most addicts will experience a relapse of their risky behavior. Public figures like Bennett, who has been very critical of Clinton's skirt-chasing, is one of thousands of people in power who use hypocrisy and denial as a cloak behind which they hide.

The Impact of Addiction is Devastating, No Matter Who the Addict Is

It's important for the disease of addiction to be treated as such. It is a serious illness that can tear apart families, ruin careers and derail relationships, both personal and professional. The rich and powerful are often able to keep their addictions secret - at least for awhile - and for this reason, don't receive the much-needed evaluations and diagnoses for their problems. This keeps them from seeking appropriate treatment that could put them on the road to recovery.

A well-connected executive or politician can disgrace themselves and their families in addition to affecting the confidence of every person and employee they come in contact with. Oftentimes, so many have put their faith in these high-powered people that when addictions do surface, an entire country can be devastated.

Lifting the Cloak of Secrecy: The First Step in the Recovery Process

Complete honesty in the addiction recovery process can go a long way toward healing. Betty Ford is a good example, as her own road to recovery has been an international example that many have followed with success. She helped to break down the stigma associated with addiction, leading so many out from under the cloak of denial.

An addiction is a chronic and progressive disease that can affect anyone, from any walk of life. The huge impact of addiction across the globe is evident in our jails, court rooms, prisons, schools, hospitals and history books. From the outside, it might look like there's a difference between the addict who chases a high on the street and the addict who uses his political, religious or star power to hide risky behavior. The underlying issues and the suffering and pain they experience are often very much the same.

Many Issues Can Underlie an Addiction

Feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness often fuel an addiction. These same feelings bring on uncontrolled anger which usually leads to domestic violence. Unresolved issues from childhood often surface. Sometimes it's personal tragedy that leads one down the path to addiction. With many top officials, entertainers and executives, the stress and pressure of their positions may lead them to use alcohol, drugs, sex, rage, food or gambling to cope. In some cases, the ego involved with having a top position leads people into lives of risk-taking and excess.

Regardless of the issue or issues at the heart of an addiction, professional help is needed to sort through emotions and treat the physical and/or psychological addictions. Many different treatment protocols are available to help with addiction, from 12-step programs, to psychotherapy, to faith-based programs. These can be individual or group programs offered in an in-patient or out-patient setting.

Whatever course of treatment you choose, it's important to know that owning up to a problem is a step in the right direction. Only then can the healing and recovery process begin. That journey to recovery can be challenging, no matter who you are, but qualified professionals can help you at every step of the way.

Anger Management and Domestic Violence Counselor Offers Help

Marty Brenner, CCDC, helps rebuild and save lives by counseling men and women from every walk of life on anger management and domestic violence. Because the two are so closely linked, Marty works to help clients overcome their issues so they can avoid anger that escalates into violence toward another.

The certified chemical dependency counselor has helped reshape the lives of thousands of people, from ex-cons to company executives and high-profile celebrities. Marty's successful practice is based in Beverly Hills, Ca. where he has spent 20 years providing guidance and counseling. He is also available for interventions and phone consultations.

Marty Brenner Reaches Clients on a Different Level, Speaking from Experience

If you or someone you know struggles with issues of drug addiction, anger or domestic violence, Marty can help. His wisdom comes from years of personal and professional experience. A recovering addict with 20 years of sobriety under his belt, Marty treats each client with compassion and respect. He is able to speak from experience, allowing him to connect to each client on a personal level.

Marty offers individualized programs that consist of the following services: Anger management counseling, crisis prevention, intervention, life management skills, relapse prevention, outpatient addiction treatment and medical detoxification.

Much of his work centers on treating clients who need anger management therapy and domestic violence counseling. His treatment includes workbooks, presentations and Individual approach therapy.

The Cycles of Anger, Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence Are Linked

Marty's strategies to deal with anger management include helping clients channel their anger into healthy, productive behavior. In many cases people who suffer from anger issues lash out at those around them, namely the friends and family members who often try to help. Anger and domestic violence can lead to ruined relationships, tearing apart families and friendships. They can also devastate careers and lead to criminal penalty.

Drug use and addiction often coexist with anger and violence. Marty understands that anger, violence and substance abuse are linked. Oftentimes, substance abuse and mental health clients have suffered traumatic life events which lead them to a life of drug use, anger and violence. Despite the clear connection between substance abuse, anger and violence, few programs are able to effectively treat them together.

With much success, Marty's program can get to the root of the anger problem and work with clients to replace negative behaviors and responses with healthy ones. Being able to contain anger and other dark emotions gives our clients the ability to avoid situations that could potentially lead to substance abuse and episodes of domestic violence.

A recent example, Don Cornelius, the legendary host of Soul Train, was put on thirty six months of probation after pleading no contest to one count of "corporeal injury resulting in traumatic condition of a spouse." The incident in question happened in October when he apparently assaulted his wife Victoria.

While not present when the judgment was handed down on Thursday in the L.A. County Superior Court in Van Nuys, Cornelius has been slapped with a long list of requirements including:

  1. $1,000 in fines
  2. 300 hours of community service
  3. Inability to own, use or possess any deadly weapons
  4. Mandate to not use or threaten violence to any person, especially Victoria
  5. Mandate to complete a 52 week domestic violence treatment program
  6. Mandate to stay 100 yards from the Mulholland estate where the attack took place

Martin Brenner is a certified Chemical Dependency Counselor and Anger Management Facilitator. He has 20 years of experience providing guidance and counseling to a wide and diverse range of people. Mr. Brenner provides services to individuals challenged with various addictions including but not limited to - Substance Abuse, Alcohol, and Anger.

See Martin Brenner's Profile on

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