As a teacher, seeking help for addiction can seem like a daunting task. You might worry about what the students or their families will think. You might wonder if admitting you have a problem will put your reputation on the line, or your job in jeopardy. When I decided to write about teachers with addiction and alcoholism, my original thought was to format it as a resource page. At ARC, we write resource pages as well as blogs; the former are generally more fact-based and formatted in a similar way to a Wikipedia page. The latter – while still fact-based – are more conversational, and welcome the personal experiences and opinions of our writers. To my surprise, there were not many scholarly articles written about teachers who struggle with addiction and alcoholism. There were, however, lots of blogs, op-eds and other forms of personal storytelling about teachers developing substance use disorder and finding a second chance through recovery.
Similar to my opinion about professional athletes, it seems likely that addiction and alcoholism among teachers is probably more common than we think. Without the added layer of celebrity, teachers are similarly held to extremely high standards and expected to be role models for youth, just like professional athletes. This is not to say that drinking and using drugs is more prominent among teachers than other professions, just that the stigma around substance use that exists in most facets of our society is probably more acute for teachers. Fear of facing the stigma possibly keeps many educators from seeking help for their substance use disorder. Teaching can be a very stressful job. In addition to daily instruction, there are the hours spent grading, the energy expended managing classroom behavior, and the pressure to meet school system standards of keeping meticulous records about dozens of pupils. In our society, teachers are expected to be generous, empathetic, principled and highly educated all while earning, on average, $60,000 each year. Depending on which state you live in, that amount could be significantly less.
Teachers and Chronic Stress
Chronic untreated stress can lead to physical problems such as heart disease and high blood pressure, in addition to mental health issues including depression, anxiety and personality disorders. Shahram Heshmat, Ph.D., is a professor of Public Health and Economics at the University of Illinois. Much of his writing speaks to the problems that can arise from stress in the workplace. In a blog for Psychology Today, Heshmat said “The workplace is a context that provides almost routine exposure to chronic stress. Work-related stress may include factors such as the demands of the job, the ability to have control over decisions, and the degree of social support within the workplace. People in jobs where they don’t perceive themselves to have a lot of control are susceptible to developing clinical anxiety and depression, as well as stress-related medical conditions like ulcers and diabetes.” Teaching is so stressful that between 19 and 30 percent of people who begin teaching will switch professions within five years. According to a study by Penn State, 46 percent of teachers say they experience a high-stress situation each day. That is the same percentage as nurses in hospitals. Heshmat goes on to say, “There is solid evidence for the link between chronic stress and the motivation to use addictive substances.” With such high expectations to not only educate, but to be role models for children and teenagers, it is easy to forget that teachers are only human.
Find Help for Addiction or Alcoholism
If you or a loved one is a teacher struggling with addiction or alcoholism, there is help. At TruHealing Centers across the country, we offer various levels of addiction treatment, from medically assisted detox to long term aftercare. Seeking help for an addiction takes a lot of courage, especially if it means needing to break from work. As a teacher, the fear of letting your students down, or the fear of a negative reputation, can seem very daunting. But investing in your health now will make your future much more prosperous. To find out which level of care is the best for you, contact a Truhealing Centers admissions specialist at 833-216-3079.