A casestudy with Eric: leadership and alcohol abuse

Eric used to be the CFO of a large company, how did he get to the point of alcohol addiction and more important: what are we doing about it?

His system tried to find new recognition and peaks, like an addict looking for heroine.

Eric asked a friend for my phone number, because he feels extremely depressed. After being fired at his previous company, things really went downhill for this man. He was the CFO of a large company and helped to reset all internal processes. This gained success after success and Eric was really celebrated by his colleagues and co-workers. 


About one year ago, when his main task was done, he felt empty. There were no new successes to celebrate and he became extremely bored. No-one in the company made him any reproach about his lack of results, but Eric felt a big failure. 


He started drinking in the evenings. It made him fall asleep easier and it also gave him this sedative and pleasant feeling he urged for. But very soon, his drinking became problematic. He kept a bottle of vodka hidden in his desk and began drinking during office hours. 


At first nobody noticed, but at a certain point he fell asleep and his assistent found him. She reported this incident to HR, and also explained he was confused at times and spoke slurred. Within a week he was sitting at home, off duty without pay. The drinking became worse and Eric stayed in bed for days in a row. Depressed, drunk and extremely tired. 


So what happened here? His nucleus accumbens was extremely triggered and satisfied with all his successes during the company change. But without these, his system tried to find new recognition and peaks. Like an addict looking for heroine. Eric tried a bottle of wine and felt this alternative relaxation and comfort. And so this was his new heroine. 


Working with him, I literally started with finding a new drug. Obviously alcohol was a bad idea, and there was no way he could return into the working process. So I asked a friend of mine, who is a personal trainer. He started to work-out with Eric each and every morning. Building up physical strength and pushing his boundaries in order to make endorphins. 


This helped my client to get ready to work on a mental level. It took about four months before Eric was able to find a new challenge. In this case it was a start-up in need of a financial expert to lead change with constant steps of success. 


Dopamine is the neurochemical that makes you feel successful and happy. But it is also one of the most dangerous things to strive for. Because it easily triggers addictions and extreme behaviour. 


Read more about dopamine, endorphine and leadership in Leadership Lessons #6: Dopamine.

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